Takeaways from Google’s Transparency Report

Google has been in the news recently for having publicly released a Transparency Report that analyzes how many emails sent to/from Gmail accounts are protected with encryption. In Google’s terms, an unencrypted email is as “open to snoopers as a postcard in the mail,” meaning that anyone from an identity thief to the NSA can simply read unencrypted emails without difficulty as they pass across the Internet. This issue concerns anyone who sends private information via email, which today includes just about everyone.

As part of their Transparency Report, Google released a chart showing the percentage of emails that were encrypted when sent between Gmail.com and list of high-traffic email domains. Domains, in this sense, equate to companies that either send or receive emails to/from everyday Gmail users, from social media networks to ecommerce websites to personal email services. The chart can be found at the link below. While reading this chart, it is important to consider which domains send/receive emails that contain sensitive, private information and which domains mainly send newsletters containing public announcements. For example, some domains such as Groupon.com and ConstantContact.com encrypt very few of their emails sent to Gmail users, but these companies’ emails are generally newsletters sent in bulk to hundreds or thousands of people, for which privacy matters little.

On Google’s report, many high-traffic domains that send private information do, to their credit, encrypt the vast majority of their inbound and outbound emails: Amazon.com, Facebook.com, Linkedin.com, Twitter.com, AOL.com, MSN.com, and Yahoo.com.

The red flag that many readers may overlook is that two notable high-traffic email domains, Comcast.net and Roadrunner.com (Time Warner Cable’s ISP/email service), encrypt less than 1% of their emails sent to Gmail accounts.

According to Google, email encryption via Transport Layer Security, or TLS, can greatly deter snoopers and is as easy for companies to enable as flipping on a switch. Even so, Google announced that they will be stepping in and releasing a new plugin for their Chrome browser that will encrypt emails end-to-end. Google even plans to make this plugin’s encrypted emails so secure that not even Gmail itself can read the contents. At first glance, this may seem strange for Google, a company that relies on selling advertisements targeted towards users based on the contents of their emails. But perhaps Google sees the long-term value of fostering consumer trust and loyalty by getting ahead of the hot topic that is online privacy.

Google’s Transparency Report:
http://www.google.com/transparencyreport/saferemail/

Further reading:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/06/03/google-email-security-gmail-snowden/9920473/

Net Neutrality Discussions Allude to ‘Common Carrier’ Precedents

The latest development in ‘net neutrality’ discussions has been the involvement of several lobbyists and interest groups, mostly speaking on behalf of Silicon Valley Internet content producers, who support the notion that the FCC regulate Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as ‘common carriers’, like railroads and utilities. These groups appeal to legal precedents put in place over the past century that regulated permissibly monopolized businesses and aimed to prevent these ‘common carriers’ from prioritizing their services to the highest bidding companies and then grossly overcharging or neglecting service to the little guys.

These negotiations come at a time when the FCC, ISPs, and other interested parties are vying over whether ISPs can sell ‘fast lane’ Internet connections to those content producers willing to pay for faster service to customers. Content producers, especially streaming audio and video services, worry about what limitless fees and charges could be coming down the pike if the big ISPs like Comcast and AT&T, who have monopolies or duopolies over most local consumer markets, use their leverage to demand higher fees for faster service or else. ISPs have responded with concerns that government regulation could stifle innovation, which has been key to the growth of high-speed broadband Internet service across the country. Both sides have valid concerns about the future of their revenues and their customer bases as we move forward through a constantly evolving Internet landscape.

So what do you think? Would subjecting ISPs to utility-like oversight lead to a more level playing field? Or should multiple ISPs be free to compete for your business, even if ‘fast lane’ priorityservices were part of the mix? Which path would lead to a more free, open, and affordable Information Superhighway?

In the meantime, get used to seeing some back-and-forth between content providers and ISPs:

netflix-verizon

 

Further reading:

http://bgr.com/2014/06/12/netflix-vs-verizon-internet-streaming-speed/

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/05/20/
congresscritters_sound_off_to_wheeler_on_net_neutrality_plans/

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/
SB10001424052702303409004579568152094345342

Are You in Line with Global Screen Time Study?

A recent study on the 2014 Internet trends by Mary Meeker, has delivered some extremely interesting information on use by gadget and by country.  The U.S. is sixth in the world when it comes to screen time, with a whopping 444 minutes a day in front of a screen—that’s a whopping 7.4 hours ON AVERAGE each day.  What may or may not be surprising to you is that smartphones take up the majority of our time with 151 minutes, followed by TV (147 minutes), laptops/PCs (103 minutes) and tablets (43 minutes).  And at 7.4 hours a day, the U.S. is still only sixth!  The top five consist of Indonesia (540 min), Philippines (531 min), China (479 min), Brazil (474 min) and Vietnam (466 min).  These numbers are astounding when compared to countries like France and Italy who only spend 326 minutes and 317 minutes, respectively.

Some other key points from the study show that mobile, including smartphones and tablets, are still becoming increasingly important in data consumption.  Mobile data traffic increased 81% from last year, and since only 30% of the world’s population has a smartphone at this point, there is plenty of room for mobile traffic to increase.  These studies may be alarming to people with static websites, especially since there are over 2B users of smartphones and tablets combined and only 1.5M users of laptop and desktop PC’s combined.  By switching to responsive website design, your business could be reaching so many more people!  Mobile web design is obviously becoming more and more important.  With people spending the majority of their screen time on smartphones, don’t you want your site to be compatible?

Are these astounding figures in line with what you expected?  Higher?  Lower?  What do you think?

For more information, please click below.

2014 Industry Trends Report Slides by Mary Meeker

How Much Time the World Spends Looking at Screens, Visualized by Jamie Condliffe

FCC Talks Net Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) met Thursday, May 15 to discuss the hotly debated net neutrality issue.  It might sound boring, but trust us—it’s important!  For those of you who have no clue what net neutrality is, it revolves around the idea that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally by the Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon.  One of the main splits in opinion refers to the legalization or ban of “fast lanes,” which would give people and businesses the opportunity to pay for prioritized access, making their sites load faster than the sites that do not pay.  So for instance, ESPN’s website would load quickly because they can afford to pay for the fast lane, but Average Joe’s sports blog would load much slower.

Ideally with net neutrality, ISPs would not be able to block any legal content or favor certain traffic over others and should be open about how they handle Internet traffic.  These were the three principles that formed the basis of the FCC’s Open Internet Order that was enacted in 2010.  After the D.C. Court of Appeals deemed this an overstep on the part of the FCC in January, they overturned the act, leaving the FCC to rewrite rules that were publicly announced yesterday.

The rules proposed by the FCC passed narrowly with a 3-2 vote, and while the FCC speaks adamantly about preserving an open Internet, many see the new rules as approval of the “fast lane” system.  The new rules emphasize the need to treat all legal Internet traffic equally; however, they allow “fast lanes” for customers who are looking for prioritized access.  The FCC did state that these “fast lanes” are acceptable as long as the ISPs don’t slow down other traffic below what the customer has paid for.  Now that the regulations have passed the vote, a 120 day comment window opens for the general public to offer their opinions.  What do you think?  Do you think “fast lanes” count as net neutrality?  We’d love to hear your opinions!

For more information on the net neutrality issue, check out the following articles:

Tentative FCC Internet rules would allow fast lanes” by Mike Snider & Roger Yu

FCC on Net Neutrality: How it Happened” by the Mashable Team

FCC and Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know Before Today’s Big Meeting” by Jason Abbruzzese