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All Gmail users have one thing in common: The NSA can read your email.

Email is among the most important activist communications tools and Google's Gmail program is the most popular email program among us.

It's free, easy to use and reliable. It's also one of the NSA's most important data collection devices. It turns over your email

Google routinely turns over user data from email to the NSA either after court orders or through NSA capture devices and strategies in other countries. This information is then filtered by the NSA to extract "investigation-relevant" information and the government won't tell us what is "relevant".

This means that, because you are an activist, some of your email is being captured and analyzed by the NSA when you use gmail.

It filters and analyzes your data for marketing: While it may not be happy the NSA is taking data from its servers, Google is happy to take your data for its marketing. Since your email is on Gmail servers, Google can analyze it, filter it, use it for marketing and design your email display pages to plug certain products based on that research. That's not why you use email and it shouldn't be what an email provider does.

It limits your privacy options and protections: Gmail makes using encryption almost impossible and, with its webmail system, it actually keeps your email on its own servers. You have no control over your own email.

There are options. Your email doesn't have to be a spying device. You can enhance the protection for your email using a few easy steps:

  • 1 -- Use a privacy-supporting provider and, when security is needed, full encryption. Make sure your provider supports encryption before you open an account with them. Avoid corporate free services; they will give up your information without resistance. The two movement providers of these services are Rise-Up, the free (or donation-based) email provider and us at May First/People Link, the Internet's left-wing membership organization.
  • 2 -- On sensitive email, avoid using "quoted content" in your response. You're protected but your correspondent might not be and, if that person is using Gmail (for example), and they quote your email when answering you, the government has now defeated your attempts to secure your communications.
  • 3 -- Ask the people you work and communicate with to not use Gmail.

Using Gmail is foolhardy but using Gmail to communicate with a person who has left it for privacy reasons is downright irresponsible.

  • 4 -- Avoid using cellphones as your primary email client. Most cell phone companies use Google as their email partner and, no matter who your provider is, they will probably filter the email through Google...which is the same thing as using Gmail.
  • 5 -- Get an email client and do not rely on webmail. Email clients, like Thunderbird, give you options about where to store email and how to use it. Webmail stores your email on a server and limits those options.

- -- Alfredo López

Coordinator, Outreach and Communications Work Group May First/People Link