How Secure Is My E-mail?

Robert Jones, after reading my December 8 post about backing up Gmail, asked if privacy is a problem with web-based mail services.

If you have to worry about whether the wrong person is reading your e-mail, you're already taking unacceptable chances. You should never e-mail information that you won't want in the wrong hands, like a credit card or social security number.

Internet e-mail, by its nature, isn't private. It might pass through multiple servers on its journey to a recipient who just might accidentally forward it to the wrong person. It's therefore best to think of e-mail as the electronic equivalent of a postcard, not a letter in a sealed envelope.

Beyond that, I doubt there's someone at Google or Yahoo reading your mail. True, Gmail displays advertising based on your mail's contents, but that's done by a computer, and apparently not a bright one. I just got an e-mail about Vista's firewall on which Gmail displayed an ad for a company that drills wells--in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

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