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Google Introduces End-to-End Encryption for Gmail

A new encryption software update is being rolled out in a beta test for eligible Google Workspace users.

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Google Workspace is getting an end-to-end encryption software update
Image: Sean Gallup (Getty Images)

Google Workspace is rolling out a new security update on Gmail, adding end-to-end encryption that aims to provide an added layer of security when sending emails and attachments on the web. Customers will continue to have control over encryption keys and identity services that provide access to those keys.

The update is still in the beta stages, but eligible Workspace customers with Enterprise Plus, Education Standard, and Education Plus accounts can fill out an application to test the program through Google’s support center. Once the encryption update has been completed, Gmail Workspace customers will find that any sensitive information or data delivered cannot be decrypted by Google’s servers.

According to the support center, the application window will be open until January 20, 2023, and once users have accessed the feature, they will be able to choose to turn on the additional encryption by selecting the padlock button when drafting their email. But once activated, some features will be disabled, including emojis, signatures, and Smart Compose.

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Google spokesperson Ross Richendrfer said in an email to Gizmodo that launching client-side encryption “across Workspace’s services is really important for our users.”

He referenced Google’s initial announcement in June of last year that said the new feature adds on to the client-side encryption software by allowing users to have control of the encryption keys and individually decide who will have access to their data.

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“Client-side encryption is especially beneficial for organizations that store sensitive or regulated data, like intellectual property, healthcare records, or financial data,” Richendrfer referenced in the email.

The encryption feature will be monitored and managed by users’ administrators and comes after Google started working to add more encryption features to Gmail.

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Client-side encryption, or CSE, was added to Google drive last year when the company launched its new enterprise offerings that allowed businesses to encrypt spreadsheets and documents. CSE is already available for Google Drive, including in apps like Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. It’s also in Google Meet, and is in the beta stage for Google Calendar.

“Google Workspace already uses the latest cryptographic standards to encrypt all data at rest and in transit between our facilities,” Google said in its announcement. It continued, “Client-side encryption helps strengthen the confidentiality of your data while helping to address a broad range of data sovereignty and compliance needs.”

Notably, this beta follows end-to-end encryption coming to most of Apple’s iCloud services, with mail, contacts, and calendar being the odd ones out.