Gmail doesn’t encrypt your emails end-to-end, so even if you’re using a private email address, your messages aren’t necessarily private.
However, there are ways to secure your messages in Gmail. You can encrypt messages before you send them, or set your Gmail account to confidential mode, which prevents recipients from forwarding, printing, copying, and downloading your messages.
How Gmail Encrypts Your Messages
Gmail encrypts your messages using the TLS encryption protocol Encrypted Email. This means that they are secure in transit and can be read only if the recipient’s email provider also supports TLS.
However, TLS isn’t enough to protect your messages from third parties reading them at a later date. You need to encrypt your emails at rest, which can be done by adding a password or using a third-party app and extension.
To encrypt your email, you can click on the lock icon next to the To field in your message composer, as shown in the image below. This will allow you to change your S/MIME settings and learn about the level of encryption your recipient has set for their own email provider. The colors of the icon represent the different levels of encryption. For example, green means the recipient has enhanced S/MIME encryption, while red shows standard S/MIME encryption. You can view more information about your recipients’ encryption settings by clicking on the lock and selecting “View details”.
Gmail uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) to encrypt your emails. It’s one of the most common encryption protocols that’s used across the Internet and works by default with almost all email providers.
TLS protects your data during transit – that’s when it’s sent from your email client to a server. However, it won’t prevent someone from reading your messages once they’ve arrived at their destination.
For Gmail users who want more privacy, there’s also a feature called ‘confidential mode’ which allows you to add expiry dates and SMS passcodes that need to be entered in order to read an email.
Alternatively, you can use third-party apps and services like Flowcrypt which encrypt your messages using Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption. These apps and services aren’t free, but they offer a higher level of privacy than standard Gmail encryption.
PGP is one of the most popular methods for email encryption. It’s a free and open source solution that uses digital signatures to encrypt messages.
It uses a decentralized trust model to ensure the authenticity of messages. However, it can be difficult to implement and use correctly.
Gmail doesn’t support PGP directly out of the box, so you will need to install an extension or third-party app. Two popular choices are Mailvelope and FlowCrypt.
Another option is to use S/MIME, which is a security protocol that’s built into many modern email apps. It’s not as secure as PGP, but it’s easier to use and is more widely understood than PGP.
This approach also makes it much more interoperable with other e-mail software and plugins, which can be important for organizations that need to communicate with employees who work with other mail clients or platforms. It requires a bit of work on the part of the recipient, though.
Gmail’s new Confidential Mode is a feature that allows you to protect your sensitive emails with an expiration date or password. It also lets you revoke access to emails at any time.
Admins can enable confidential mode for domains, schools, workplaces and other groups. To use confidential mode, a sender can select the confidential mode icon when composing a message, then fill out an expiration date and passcode.
The confidential mode feature can help organizations protect sensitive data from authorized access. It can also be a good tool to mitigate risks related to HIPAA compliance and privacy concerns. However, it is not a secure alternative to end-to-end encryption.