Google on Wednesday announced that it will encrypt Gmail at all times, not just during sign-on, and make the process an opt-out feature rather than opt-in.
At this point, Google only uses this encryption process, known as HTTPS, during the sign-in process in order to protect your password. HTTPS keeps e-mail encrypted as it travels between your web browser and servers and is mostly used for things like banks and credit card company Web sites.
In 2008, Google rolled out the option to switch to HTTPS at all times. Last year, at the behest of 37 privacy and security experts, Google said it was thinking about moving all Gmail users to 24-7 HTTPS as a security measure.
"Over the last few months, we've been researching the security/latency tradeoff and decided that turning https on for everyone was the right thing to do," Sam Schillace, Gmail engineering director, wrote in a Wednesday blog post.
Why is this even an issue? While HTTPS makes your Gmail inbox more secure, that extra security can also affect performance, causing a delay in Gmail activities. As a result, those who believe their network is secure and do not want to risk Gmail delays can opt-out of HTTPS under the Gmail Settings menu.
"We are currently rolling out default https for everyone," Schillace wrote. "If you've previously set your own https preference from Gmail Settings, nothing will change for your account."
Customers who use offline Gmail will likely encounter problems, Schillace said. Specifically, offline Gmail might not sync your mail and shortcuts and bookmarks might behave differently when you're online versus offline.
The easiest way to fix this problem is to opt-out of HTTPS, but for those worried about security, Google has posted a workaround on its Gmail Help page that lets you switch your Offline Gmail so that it syncs with the HTTPS URL rather than HTTP.
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