Press Release

Google Finally Improves Security Of Gmail Connections As Consumer Watchdog Urged

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Wed, Jan 13, 2010 at 4:25 pm

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Santa Monica, CA —  In the wake of cyber attacks from China Google has announced it will improve security for consumers connecting to its Gmail service over the Internet by encrypting data traveling to its servers, a move Consumer Watchdog called on the Internet giant to make more than a year ago.

“Good for Google, ” said John M. Simpson, consumer advocate for the nonprofit, nonpartisan group. “This should serve as a model for email service providers like Yahoo!, AOL and Microsoft. They all should follow Google’s lead.”

Consumer Watchdog said Google should use encryption for connections to all its Internet-based services, not just Gmail.

The new security measures would not have prevented the sort of cyber attack that targeted Google from China.  It does increase security to prevent third parties from snooping as information moves from a computer over a network to Google’s servers.  Google has offered SSL encryption using the https protocol as an option since 2008.

However, the default was for an open http connection.  If a consumer’s computer was on a secure network, there wasn’t an issue. With the increase use of public WiFi connections it is a simple matter for hackers to intercept messages on such open networks.

Google said it now will make SSL using the HTTPS protocol the default mode for Gmail. Consumers will have the option to turn it off if they wish.

“This greatly improves security for average users, most of whom run services with the default settings,” said Simpson.

Consumer Watchdog first called on Google to adopt HTTPS as the default in 2008. View a video of Simpson asking Google CEO Eric Schmidt about the issue here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKybBlEjSyk

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Consumer Watchdog, formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, DC and Santa Monica, Ca.  Our website is: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org.

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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 361 posts on Inside Google.

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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