The digital world has changed the way we communicate, that much is obvious. The internet, mobile phones and digital communication mean that location means very little now and there’s little chance of being incommunicado unless you really want to. This rise in different aspects of communication is bringing other issues into play though, one of the most important is that of privacy.
Take for example email, how private do you consider it? Who would you expect to have access to an email you wrote to a colleague or business associate. I would imagine most would expect the list to only contain the sender (you) and the recipient. However this is very unlikely to be the case as sending an email is one of the least private methods of communicating about in this modern world.
Some experts rate an email on a par with shouting across a crowded room as far as privacy goes. Whilst this is possibly a slight exaggeration, the analogy has a lot of merit. Your email contains no security by default, it’s written in clear text readable by anyone who comes across it. There is a large chance than some one will too, as the method of transport for an email is despatch through the hotpotch of shared routers and switches we know as the internet.
So your email will certainly be hoovered up by the PRISM project run by the NSA in the US. GCHQ has a similar data vacuum going on with network taps fitted to important pieces of fiber that relay the majority of UK internet traffic. Your emails main protection is pretty much obscurity, being lost in the millions that are sent every hour across the globe. But be aware that this data is stored, it is accessible and it’s certainly readable without any real issues. For further reading try about using VPNs for security and issues like accessing BBC iPlayer abroad – try this free trial.
It would certainly be advisable to use another communication method for important messages. If you require a certain element of privacy then you should certainly find another method or invest in some security for your emails. Check out companies like Entrust or PGP, most of the big guys now supply something that will at least encrypt your email in transit. There are highly secure online variants like the guys at Hushmail who encrypt and also don’t store clear text copies on their servers. You can also look at services which can individually encrypt different services on your computer like FTP, Web or Email, or specific applications – this video shows how to use hide ip software.
The key of course is encryption, ensuring that your email is only readable by the intended recipient. This means that although your email will still be despatched through the internet ether, it at least won’t be readable by every router en route. There are issues of course of what happens when it gets to your recipient – how it’s stored and accessed for example but encrypting your message is a very strong start to ensuring your privacy.