Gmail users could pay electric or telephone bills from their inbox
Google has already been experimenting with turning Gmail into a commerce platform. Now, the company may be poised to take the next step down that path by letting users pay their bills using the email service.
Re/code has viewed documents describing a new service dubbed “Pony Express” that would allow users to link up their electricity, phone and other utility bills to their Gmail account. Users would be able to pay the bills within Gmail using a credit card or a bank account withdrawal. The bills would be bundled together in a special Pony Express folder within Gmail or Google’s new email app Inbox, according to the documents.
A Google spokeswoman declined to comment.
Launching a bill-paying service would give Google more access to users’ personal and financial information. It would also keep users more tightly tethered to Google’s services. However, many utilities already offer online payment systems, so it’s not clear whether people would adopt a Google version of online billing en masse.
Many people have at least two email addresses: There’s the one you get for work, then there’s the one you use for personal business. And you might even have one to give all the companies who will send you junk mail until the world ends.
But these accounts don’t physically exist in your office, home, or city dump, respectively. They’re typically off someplace in the cloud — unless, like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, you decide to host your own email service in your home. While heading up Foggy Bottom, the potential presidential hopeful exclusively used an email server registered to her home in Chappaqua, New York, according to the Associated Press and New York Times.
The situation has quickly became problematic for Clinton. Public officials are supposed to be archiving their correspondence under open records rules, so the revelations have raised questions over why Clinton opted to use a private email setup rather than the State Department’s service.
While Clinton’s move to use a private email solution might seem like an unusual choice, it’s technologically easy enough for most people to set one up — check out this explainer from Ars Technica for the wonky details. But few people bother with a private email server. Why not?
“The big caveat is that you must know what you’re doing in terms of setting it up securely, and that’s a fairly difficult, non-trivial problem for most people,” says Katie Moussouris, chief policy officer for San Francisco-based HackerOne, a company that works with friendly hackers to help organizations like Yahoo, Twitter, and even government agencies detect vulnerabilities in their own technology.
An outgoing email generally follows this route: It’s stored in a server, sent by a client (software ranging from Microsoft Outlook on your computer to the Mail app on your smartphone), and traverses various networks en route to its destination, where it’s received by the recipient’s client and stored by their email server. (And vice versa for incoming email.) Setting up your own email service lets you control the two closest parts of this path — your local server and client. That can help make your data safer, especially if you encrypt the data stored on your server and the messages you send.
But doing all this still means three-fifths of your email’s path runs through areas over which you have no control. In fact, the only way that emails sent to or from Clinton’s account would remain truly secure would be if they went to or came from accounts that were similarly locked down. Then “you would have all of the infrastructure under your direct control,” says Moussouris, who has more than 15 years experience in Internet security and has also worked as a hacker-for-hire.
Despite these security holes, there are still reasons that a person would want to set up their own email service. As that Ars explainer points out, if your email is hosted in the cloud —say, by Gmail — “it’s not yours.” If you control the servers, you own the content — though governmental policies surrounding transparency and police search and seizure rules certainly weigh in here.
But most people aren’t trying to protect sensitive State Department data. Instead, one reason people run their own email services is so they can use their own domain name in their email address. If this was a reason for Clinton, it was a foolhardy one, argues Moussouris. If being a high-value target for hackers is a reason for using an (allegedly) more secure private email service, choosing an domain name like clintonemail.com, as Clinton did, only gave her a higher profile.
“Such an obvious name would make it an interesting target for a hacker,” says Moussouris. “People with that high of a profile, whether it’s a politician, celebrity, or high-level executive, they should already be operating with that in mind.”
Besides, consumer-based services not only allow users to use their own domain name while hosting their emails in the cloud, they also provide end-to-end encryption, ensuring that their messages stay safe while traveling through the web.
But if you still want to email like Hillary Clinton, Moussouris recommends relying on an expert — if you can find one. “Qualified security people are very rare,” she says. And that’s one of the problems with this setup for Clinton.
“I couldn’t imagine a top-notch security person going to work for anyone in Washington, let alone an individual in, essentially, a non-technical function,” Moussouris says. “We have a scarcity of talent in the security industry, and we see this when we try to hire good people all the time.”
As a result, Moussouris assumes whoever set up Clinton’s private email server was a staffer, unless they were very well paid. And if that’s the case, the best way to email like Hillary Clinton is to spend a lot of money.
Consider this before emailing your Social Security number — or State Department business
From a lone entrepreneur in Nigeria to the U.S. Secretary of State, email security is a major issue that impacts everyone. While third-party email providers like Apple, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo claim their services are safe and secure, sometimes it seems smarter to use your work address instead.
But Hillary Clinton opted to use a personal account instead of a government account while serving as Secretary of State, according to the New York Times. That revelation is causing headaches for the potential presidential candidate because she may have violated rules requiring public officials’ correspondence to be archived.
It’s still unclear why Clinton chose to use a personal email account instead of a State Department-supplied one (or which email service she used). Some observers, however, say it was a security risk for Clinton to go off the government grid. But when it comes to hacks and brass tacks, which email service is actually more secure: Consumer services like Gmail or government email?
“Neither,” says Justin White, a former director of information security compliance for the state of Colorado, who has also worked as an information security consultant with Microsoft, Costco, Wells Fargo, and the state of Washington. When asked which service he would use to send sensitive information, White, a graduate of the FBI Citizens Academy, begins to answer one way, then another.
And then he pauses and says: “You’d have to torture me to force me to do it.”
There are several reasons for White’s wavering response. First, while some governmental email systems are highly secure, that’s not true for every department. For instance, he says, if you were going to send some sensitive information to another agency, if that department has poor security on its servers, your data is put at risk of being intercepted — even if the other office is located just next door.
Secondly, there’s no way of knowing which governmental agency has good email security and which doesn’t, because, for security purposes, they don’t typically reveal their protocols.
“Some people are woefully unprepared at securing their own email servers at an agency level, so for all you know, people could already be intercepting emails,” says White.
Still, the State Department probably has very good email security for classified messages — security that Clinton apparently opted out of using.
But on the other hand, consumer services like Gmail aren’t hacker-proof, either. They often tout the exact measures they use to keep messages secure as a means of marketing — but by doing so, they’re also helping hackers untangle their safety measures. From unencrypted data to servers that aren’t protected and breaches that haven’t been fixed yet, hackers catalog security deficiencies to find ways to break in.
“You could go on any forum as well, and see what other people have researched about any of the different cloud or (email) solutions,” says White.
Is email encryption a magic bullet solution? The disappointing reality is that between the senders’ and receivers’ servers, there are many opportunities for intercepting or hacking into emails. It’s enough to make a person go all Janet Napolitano (the former Secretary of Homeland Security once said she doesn’t use email).
But that’s not to say we should all revert to the digital dark ages — we just need to be conscious about how secure our email services really are. For Clinton’s part, she might have just opted for more secure methods than email for truly sensitive communications. A State Department spokeswoman said Tuesday Clinton could have used secure voice and video chats instead, or opted for something truly old fashioned: printed documents.
Didn't notice that little dollar sign at the bottom of every Gmail message? You're not alone+ READ ARTICLE
Gmail users in the United Kingdom may notice a new attachment icon today shaped like a British pound sign which does exactly what it suggests: attaches money to an email.
American users need not be envious. Google already released the feature this side of the pond more than a year ago, even if it was easy to overlook that mysterious little dollar sign at the bottom of every message.
Here’s a refresher on how it works:
1) Open a new message in Gmail and click on the dollar sign icon beneath the text box.
2) A pop-up window will appear prompting the user to link an existing credit or debit card to Google Wallet. Already have Google Wallet? Skip ahead to step 3. Otherwise, grab your credit card and fill out the billing information to set up an account.
3) Type in the amount you want to send to the recipient, hit “send,” and it will land as an attachment in the recipient’s inbox, regardless of whether they’re using Gmail or an alternative email service.
4) Here’s the rub: Recipients also need an existing Google Wallet account to receive the payment. The money automatically uploads to their Google Wallet balance, or it can be transferred directly into a banking account.
5) Swallow the fee. Google tacks on an extra 2.9% fee for credit or debit card payments, but the user can avoid the fee by sending money directly from a banking account or by living in the UK, where no fees apply. The receiver gets off scot free.
That’s it, an incredibly handy feature which is only limited by the number of users on Google Wallet and their keen eye for mysterious icons.
You're going to need a VPN if you want to access it+ READ ARTICLE
Google’s Gmail service is virtually inaccessible in mainland China, the search giant’s own data shows, in what appears to be the latest step in a steady ousting of its services from the nation.
Google’s Transparency Report charts show traffic began to fall in China late on Christmas Day and hit zero before midday on Dec. 26. Internet-analytics group Dyn Research also said Sunday on Twitter that there had been an IP-level block of Gmail access on the Chinese mainland.
Google says in an emailed comment to TIME that “we’ve checked and there’s nothing wrong on our end.”
The stoppage effectively removes the last means of accessing Gmail from behind China’s Great Firewall without recourse to a virtual private network or VPN.
Chinese authorities had blocked access to numerous Google services — including Gmail, but also everything from Google Drive to Google Hangouts — just ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown this June. Since then, Gmail had been accessible in mainland China mainly just through email protocols, including IMAP and POP3, which allow Gmail access through applications like Microsoft Outlook and Apple Mail on iPhone.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters on Monday that she had no information about Gmail disappearing, Reuters reports.
“China has consistently had a welcoming and supportive attitude towards foreign investors doing legitimate business here,” she said. “We will, as always, provide an open, transparent and good environment for foreign companies in China.”
Beijing is well known for carefully curating what its citizens and visitors can and can’t see on the web. As of Monday, Chinese web-censorship watchdog GreatFire.org listed 599 Google sites as blocked in mainland China, and 13,558 out of the 13,612 Google search terms of interest as blocked, including the English phrase waging nonviolence.
Gmail is a comprehensive, powerful email program, but it can be confusing, even for those like me who have been using it since it launched in beta in 2004.
That’s because Google likes to add new features to improve the way it works. Some changes are welcome, like the tabs feature that sorts incoming mail into types of mail. Others may streamline the look, but hide basic options, like changing the subject on an email reply. So I’ve pulled together the five features I find most useful in the current iteration of Gmail.
Adding a calendar entry from Gmail
If you get a lot of invites in your email–whether they’re for social events or just plain old work meetings–it’s now easier than ever to add them directly to your Google calendar from an open email. Look for any dates or times in the email and you’ll see dashes appear under those words. Click the date and you’ll get a prompt asking if you want to “Add to Calendar.” Clicking yes shows you your calendar for that date with the event filled in. You can change the date and time and name of the event, before adding it to your calendar. Google also includes a link back to the original email right in your calendar entry.
If Google hasn’t identified a date or time within an email, you can still add the entry without leaving your email. With the message open, click the “More” drop-down menu on top of the email. Select “Create event” and your email message will show up in the description section. You can then edit and enter details and click “save”.
Adding a person’s info to your contacts
One of the things I love about Gmail is the ability to easily update a person’s contact information right from within an email. It’s just a little tricky to find this option. In an open email, scan over to the right, just above the ads. This is where you see the option to chat with, email or start a video call with this person.
Next to those icons is a little downward-pointing arrow that gives you more options if you click it. The top option is “Add to contacts” or “edit contact details,” if you have the person already in your address book. Before you click that, copy any info from that person’s signature that you want to paste into their contact entry. Now click edit contact details and you’ll see that person’s name and email address auto-populate in the proper fields. Paste the extra info like phone number and address into the notes field for easy access while you’re editing the contact information. All changes are saved automatically.
Once you’re done, simply hit the back button on your browser to go back to your email.
Sorting and labeling incoming email
One of Google’s recent “improvements” to Gmail is customizable tabs which separate incoming email into categories; Primary, Social and Promotions. Primary is email sent specifically to you, or that you mark as important. Social is email from social networking sites like LinkedIn, Pinterest and Facebook. Promotions is where I find my Groupon emails and other newsletters that I subscribe to. I like this system because it lets me scan my inbox and see what needs tending to first. Then I can go through my LinkedIn updates and ultimately see if there’s a good neighborhood restaurant on Groupon.
The problem with this is that some emails which are sent to multiple users may wind up in the Promotions tab, leading you to believe they’re unimportant – or worse, spam. For instance, the Techlicious Newsletter appears under my Promotions tab, so I don’t see it when first perusing my email in the morning.
It’s easy enough to train Gmail to send items to the proper tab. To move the newsletters and emails that are important to you, simply drag them to the tab you want them to appear in. For instance, I dragged the Techlicious newsletter from the Promotions tab and moved it to my Primary tab. Google asked “do this for future messages?” Clicking “yes” taught Google to send it to my Primary tab the next time. Another option is to right click on the message in your inbox. You’ll get an option to move it to any of the other two folders, or archive or delete it.
You can customize these tabs to your liking. Click the + sign all the way to the right of the tabs and you’ll be given the option of adding Updates and Forums as folders. You’ll be given a preview of email senders from your own inbox that will be sent to each tab. Play around with this feature and choose what works best for you. If you can’t stand the idea of emails being sorted into folders, use this feature to de-select everything but Primary and all of your emails will appear in one folder.
Creating and using filters
While we’re on the subjects of sorting emails, it’s really important to know how to create filters for certain types of emails. You can use a filter to label, archive or even delete emails without them ever seeing the light of day in your inbox.
To send non-priority updates — like deals from a favorite retailer — to a folder where you can find them if you want to, open the email and click the more button on top of the screen.
Now click “Filter messages like these.” You’ll see a pop-up window with the email address of the sender already filled in. Now select “create a filter” and you’ll see a box with different options. I generally select Skip the Inbox (archive it) and then apply a label, like LinkedIn or Facebook.
Now, when those messages come in, they’re automatically archived and sent to specific folders that I can peruse when I have time. You can also use filters to mark items important, or have email from a specific person – like your boss or your spouse – get sorted into a folder of its own.
Changing the subject line in a reply
This is a question I get asked all the time: “How do you change the subject line in an email reply?” Often, someone will reply to an earlier email I’ve sent and include brand new information on an entirely different topic than the original exchange, but the subject line doesn’t reflect that.
To change or update the subject, click reply in an open email and you’ll see that downward-facing arrow next to the reply arrow. Click that and you’ll see options to either reply, reply all, forward or edit subject.
Could they have buried that feature any deeper? Now, you can delete, or write URGENT or New Info or whatever else you might want to add to the subject.
What are your favorite Gmail tips and tricks? Let us know what you found, or if you have any Gmail questions we can answer.
This article was written by Andrea Smith and originally appeared on Techlicious.
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Google's new email app looks a lot like some other products that are available right now
On Wednesday, Google released Inbox, a virtual redesign of the company’s Gmail service meant to help users deal with the troves of email that floods their inboxes every day. The product looks slick: You can snooze emails for later, create reminders that will also appear in your inbox, and similar messages are grouped together to make everything easier to find.
Unfortunately, Inbox is invite only, meaning email junkies eager to get their hands on a new toy could be left refreshing their real inboxes for a while. The good news? Many of Inbox’s best features are available right now. That’s because Google’s new release isn’t quite the reinvention of email some sites are hailing it as. In reality, lesser-known companies have been putting out Inbox-like apps for a while, and they’re pretty darned good. Here are three of the best ones, all of which work on both Android and iOS.
I would certainly never call Google’s Inbox a borderline ripoff of Dropbox’s pre-existing Mailbox app, but I can’t stop other people from doing it. Mailbox was first one to bring things like email snoozing and swipeable interfaces to the mainstream. Want put off a conversation until tomorrow? Just swipe left and Mailbox will remind you the next day. The app also makes sorting and archiving mail a breeze. This one might not have the same bells and whistles as its successors, but its simplicity can be a feature in itself.
One problem with Google’s blocky app style is it feels out of place on iOS’s hyper-modern interface. CloudMagic’s award winning design doesn’t have that problem. This app offers all the email snoozing and easy swiping of Mailbox in an even better looking package. And it’s not all eye candy. CloudMagic integrates with services like Evernote, Todoist, Salesforce, Pocket, and more, through a clever card interface. That means power users get a lot functionality, like reminders and notes, while casual users don’t have to bother with extra complexity.
Price: $5 for pro upgrade
Boxer is the only paid download on this list, but for some people it will be worth the money. This app’s main selling point is its “actions” interface, which you can activate on one or more messages at once. Once the action panel comes up, snoozing a conversation, adding a to-do item, firing back a quick reply, or even “liking” an email is all one tap away. Even better, the action interface also integrates with other web services, meaning replying with a Dropbox attachment can also be done quickly.
Hi, there. I’m going to use an email message from my friend Ben to show you how to organize your Gmail inbox a little better.
First order of business: never delete messages. We’re going to archive them instead. This is the equivalent of taking every piece of physical mail that’s ever been sent to your house and putting it in your basement instead of throwing the mail you don’t need or don’t care about away. If you do this in real life, you’re crazy. If you don’t do this online, you’re crazy.
There are three buttons above every message: one that looks like a box (Archive), then an exclamation point inside a stop sign (Report spam), then a trash can (Delete). Unless you’re running really low on Google storage space (you probably aren’t), always use Archive when you’re done reading a message that you’d like to file away and retrieve later (or never).
Now, I need a place to file this message away. I’m going to create a label for it. Click the label-looking thing up at the top of the message and choose “Create new” to — you guessed it — create a new label.
I’m going to call this label “Emails from Ben” since it will contain emails from Ben.
Now that the label has been created, you’ll notice a little link that says “Emails from Ben” next to the subject of the email message. Clicking that label will take me to a list of all the emails I’ve labeled as “Emails from Ben.” There will only be one email on that list right now, though. Oh, and I can add multiple labels to each message if I like. If Ben were a member of my family (he’s not) and he emailed me about some bill that needed paying, I could label that message “Emails from Ben” and “Household” if I wanted to. That’s for the advanced class, though.
Now, I could just manually label every email from Ben under “Emails from Ben” but I’m a busy, important, handsome man who doesn’t have time for that nonsense. Let’s automate this process. Under the More button, I’ll choose “Filter messages like these” to create a filter.
Here is where you’ll need to be wearing elastic-leg undergarments if you tend to get too excited by technology. I’ll create a filter that does something (I’ll denote the “something” next) every time I get an email from Ben. This filter will work off of his email address, but I could set different parameters or additional parameters. That’s also for the advanced class. For this go-around, we’ll stick to Ben’s email address. Click “Create filter with this search” to move on.
As you can see, I have a lot of options here. Every time I get an email from Ben, I can archive it immediately, mark it as read, star it, and a bunch of other fun stuff. I’m going to choose to “Apply the label” and choose the “Emails from Ben” label we made a few steps earlier. And since I want all past emails from Ben to get categorized under the “Emails from Ben” label (but I don’t want to label them all by hand), I’m going to choose the “Also apply filter to matching conversations” checkbox at the bottom before clicking the “Create filter” button.
Now every email that Ben has sent me from that particular email address should show up under the “Emails from Ben” label that’s accessible from the left-hand column. And every email I get from him in the future will automatically get the “Emails from Ben” label applied to it automatically. When I’m done reading a message from him, I’ll archive it and know where to quickly find it later.
“Well, that was stupid,” you’re saying. Maybe so, but this sorcery can be applied to a whole bunch of other stuff.
Let’s say, for instance, that I want to sign up for a website that requires an email address but I don’t want to give this website my real address. I can add a “+” to my Gmail username between my name and the “@” to create a Gmail alias. I can then filter messages sent to “email@example.com” to either skip my inbox altogether and/or to get automatic labels applied to them.
Here’s a quick video of the process in action:
In essence, learning how to work with labels and filters allows you to create several automated traffic cops that can sling your email around as you see fit. Once you’ve tweaked everything a bit, you’ll notice a cleaner inbox despite spending less time dealing with email.