Gmail launches a big security update, but you might not get it yet

(Image credit: Google)

Google has become the latest company to roll out an encryption upgrade, revealing it Gmail email service is set to get full end-to-end encryption (E2EE) support, but not all users will be able to get it.

In an update on Google Workspace blog, the company explained it plans to roll out client-side encryption (CSE) to Gmail, just as it already has done for Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Meet. Google Calendar is also testing out the functionality in beta.

This follows news that Apple plans to roll out a similar “Advanced Data Protection” for US iCloud users by the end of 2023, and globally in the coming year, though it’s not set to cover Mail, Contacts, or Calendar.

Gmail encryption

Google’s client-side encryption help article details that the tech giant’s “servers can't access your encryption keys and decrypt your data.”

Using CSE in Gmail will render sensitive data, including email attachments, “indecipherable to Google servers”, however as with any CSE, users will need to make a note of their encryption keys and consider using a third-party security key for backup.

Using client-side encryption in Gmail ensures sensitive data in the email body and attachments are indecipherable to Google servers. Customers retain control over encryption keys and the identity service to access those keys.

A beta program is available to Google Workspace Enterprise Plus and Education Standard/Plus account holders. It will remain open until "January 20, 2022", according to the post, however we suspect this should be January 20, 2023, and have contacted Google to confirm this.

Among the extensive list of non-eligible accounts are: Workspace Essentials, Business Starter/Standard/Plus, Enterprise Essentials, Education Fundamentals, Frontline, Nonprofits, legacy G Suite Basic/Business, and personal accounts.

With everything, it’s likely to be a case of time before these additional security measures begin to filter out to other accounts types.

Successful beta applicants will have to wait for confirmation from Google before they will be able to follow the setup steps.

Craig Hale

With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the decarbonisation of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!