TIME Google

Google: Government Requests for User Data Up 120%

2008 Google Winter Marketing Forum In Xian
China Photos—Getty Images

They've increased by 120% since 2009

Google announced Thursday that government requests for user information has increased by 120% since 2009. Though the number of Google users has also increased over the same time period, the company says it is “seeing more and more governments start to exercise their authority to make requests.”

Google’s announcement comes by way of its bi-annual transparency report, which details government requests for user data where the company is legally able to do so. The report comes just one week after news that Google is working on enhancements to its Gmail service that would make it more difficult to conduct mass surveillance of users’ messages.

[Google: Official Blog]

TIME Google

Gmail Tests Eye-Pleasing Visual Grid for Promotional Mail

If you use the new-ish Promotions tab in Gmail to corral all your daily deals, ads and other marketing detritus, Google is field-testing a more aesthetically pleasing presentation of such material.

Basically, instead of seeing standard-looking email messages when clicking the Promotions tab, you can opt to have everything presented in a grid of Pinterest-like cards that emphasize images over text.

Google has cobbled together this animated GIF, which I’ve had in my peripheral vision the entire time I’ve been writing this post. It’s driving me nuts for some reason. I’m pleased to share it with you, however:

Gmail Field Trial
Google

Don’t stare at it too long or your brain will start to play tricks on you. It’s like the Zulily lady in the lower right-hand corner is laughing just at me. Leave me alone, lady!

If this newfangled method of perusing commercial email messages is appealing to you, you can sign up to participate in the trial. Google makes no promises that you’ll be chosen, except to say that “if you’re selected, a new grid view will bring to the top of your inbox key images from deals, offers, and other marketing emails if you have the Promotions tab enabled.”

A new, more visual way to view your Promotions tab [Google]

TIME

Gmail Ramps Up Encryption to Thwart the NSA, but It’s Still Not a Silver Bullet

servers
Getty Images

Google announced that its Gmail service will use secure, encrypted connections in an effort to thwart NSA snooping. The measure is a step in the right direction, but users can still do more to protect their own privacy

Yesterday, Google announced that its Gmail service will use a secure, encrypted connection. Gmail has supported encryption since its early days, and the option was turned on by default in 2010 — but with this latest announcement, there’s no way to turn it off.

The official company line is as follows:

Today’s change means that no one can listen in on your messages as they go back and forth between you and Gmail’s servers—no matter if you’re using public WiFi or logging in from your computer, phone or tablet.

In addition, every single email message you send or receive—100% of them—is encrypted while moving internally. This ensures that your messages are safe not only when they move between you and Gmail’s servers, but also as they move between Google’s data centers—something we made a top priority after last summer’s revelations.

The quip about “last summer’s revelations” doesn’t name any names, but we’re talking about Edward Snowden and the NSA, of course.

Encrypting your Gmail messages from the web interface to Google’s servers – and as they bounce around between Google’s servers before being shuttled to your recipient’s Gmail interface – is a step in the right direction, but it’s still not a cure-all as far as general Internet security is concerned.

Here are a few of the pieces that are still missing.

This is a Gmail-user-to-Gmail-user solution. Everything Google is saying pertains to how Gmail messages move around Google’s network between Gmail users. Once you start exchanging email with non-Gmail users, the system can potentially break down. Not that other services aren’t encrypted, mind you, but Google’s not promising to protect your communications with someone who’s not a Gmail user.

We’ll (probably) never know the extent of Google’s relationship with the NSA. Google might not even know the extent of its relationship with the NSA, for that matter. This encryption setup takes steps to make it difficult or impossible for the NSA to snoop on Gmail messages in the traditional snooping sense, but who knows if the NSA doesn’t have a more direct line into Gmail.

The burden of true security is up to each user, and it’s too cumbersome for most people. As Snowden pointed out in his recent SXSW interview, end-to-end encryption from one user to another is currently one of the best ways to prevent others from snooping on you. The problem is that end-to-end encryption relies on both parties using encryption tools and services for sending messages back and forth. Your average Internet user doesn’t have the time or patience to deal with stuff like that, or they don’t care enough to make sure nobody can intercept the recipes, chain emails and soccer schedules they’re sending around.

These quibbles aside, this is still a nice addition to Gmail’s feature-set. And the greater the number of web companies that roll out widespread encryption like this, the better. Just don’t start emailing your social security number around – that’s all. It’s always best to use the Internet with a tiny ember of paranoia gently burning in the back of your mind.

Staying at the forefront of email security and reliability: HTTPS-only and 99.978% availability [Google]

TIME Apps & Software

Gmail iPhone App Gets Less Sucky, Shows New Mail Faster

Products from rival companies Apple and Google don't often play nicely together, but Google introduced an update to its Gmail app for iPhone Wednesday that vastly improves the user experience, pre-fetching and syncing emails for easier reading on the go

Not that it was super sucky before. The one glaringly sucky thing about it has been de-suckified, however.

From Google’s blog:

The app now fully supports background app refresh, which means your Gmail messages will be pre-fetched and synced so they’re right there when you open the app—no more annoying pauses while you wait for your inbox to refresh. This feature requires iOS 7, and you’ll also need to turn on background app refresh and notifications (badge or any other type) for the Gmail app.

Note that this can take a toll on your battery life, depending upon how many emails you get every second. Check out this video to see how to turn off background app refresh on the iPhone to save battery life. Note: I have background app refresh turned off for just about every app, but I’ll be turning it on for this new Gmail feature. Mark my words. That’s not a threat: It’s a promise.

Get your mail faster on the Gmail iOS app [Google Blog]

TIME How-To

Quick Gmail Trick: Pre-Write Email Messages with Canned Responses

Watch the above video or follow the steps below:

1. Click the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner of Gmail, then choose Settings.

2. Click the Labs tab, find Canned Responses, click the Enable radio button to enable Canned Responses, scroll down and click Save Changes.

3. Compose an email message you’d like to use over and over again, and then click the arrow in the lower right-hand corner of the message window. Choose Canned Responses, and under the Save heading, select New Canned Response. Give your response a name and click OK.

4. The next time someone emails you something that warrants the canned response you created, reply to the message and instead of typing your response, click the arrow button in the lower right-hand corner, select Canned Responses, and then under Insert, choose the canned response you created in the previous step. You’ll then see your response appear in the body of your reply.

5. You can also automate canned responses to be sent out based on certain criteria (sender, keyword, label, subject and things like that). Click here to read Google’s how-to.

More Quick Tech Tricks:

 

 

TIME Google

Google Glitch Sent Thousands of Emails to Some Guy’s Hotmail Account

The Gmail logo is pictured on the top of a Gmail.com welcome
The company said it was unrelated to Friday's widespread Gmail outage

The company said it was unrelated to Friday's widespread Gmail outage

On Friday, a Gmail outage led to widespread panic and confusion across the globe. That same day, an apparently unrelated glitch also caused thousands of emails to end up in the inbox of some guy named David S. Peck. (A Hotmail user, it should be noted.)

Here’s what happened: users who searched “Gmail” were led to a results page with a link that said “Email.” Clicking that link created a new email with Peck’s address — dsp559@hotmail.com — already filled in. A tipster pointed this out to TechCrunch, who then tracked down the owner of the email address: David S. Peck of Fresno, Calif. They gave him a call to see just how badly this bizarre glitch was affecting him.

“I’ve been getting thousands of no-subject, blank emails,” Peck told TechCrunch. “500 of them come every hour, I can’t stop them.”

The deluge got so extreme that Peck began missing important messages because he couldn’t delete the unwanted emails fast enough. Most were blank, but some contained messages like “who is this?” or “why are you sending me these emails?”

On Friday night, Google said this glitch was unrelated to the Gmail outage, and offered the following statement:

Due to a technical glitch, some email addresses on public webpages appeared too prominently in search results. We’ve fixed the issue and are sorry for any inconvenience caused.

It’s still unclear how this very bizarre glitch happened. But the most confusing part of all is why Peck still uses Hotmail.

TIME gmail

30-Second Tech Trick: How to Unsend Email with Gmail

Drunk? Angry? Stupid? All of the above? Cancel that email with Gmail's Undo Send feature.

If you don’t have 30 seconds to watch the above video, here’s how to do it:

1. Launch Gmail.

2. Click the gear icon in the upper-right corner, then Settings.

3. Click the Labs tab.

4. Find Undo Send and click Enable.

5. Scroll down and click Save Changes.

The next time you send an email, you’ll have 10 seconds to undo it. That’s all she wrote.

Other tech tricks:

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