Yahoo Mail will soon support PGP encryption, the technology that keeps messages away from prying eyes, according to the company.
PGP, which literally stands for Pretty Good Privacy, is an encryption method that allows emails to be kept private except to sender and recipient. That means that even if someone was snooping on your Internet connection, they’d be unable to read the email encrypted with PGP.
By the magic of math, the decryption can only occur with the private passkey of the recipient. This is because your public identity is related to the private passkey mathematically, even though your private passkey can’t be figured out. It’s a one-way transformation, basically. Your private passkey creates your public identity, but your public identity can’t be used to figure out your private passkey.
This the gold standard of email privacy, though it has not been widely adopted because it requires third-party software and for both sender and recipient to both use PGP and share their public PGP identity. Google has recently started to develop a browser extension to simplify the process that is now only accessible to tech-proficient privacy enthusiasts.
Yan Zhu, an engineer who used to work for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and now Yahoo, tweeted out that a Yahoo executive announced that they will add PGP support to their email client.
— Yan! (@bcrypt) August 7, 2014
Yahoo will be adapting Google’s open source End-to-End code for the implementation. When questioned by Forbes about a potential loss of revenue from the inability to scan encrypted emails for ad targeting, Yahoo executive Alex Stamos was unphased:
We predict no revenue impact from end-to-end encryption
The ticket to Las Vegas that United emails you — and that we use to display Vegas ads to you — is never going to be encrypted.
He further elaborated that the kinds of emails that people will encrypt will be personal in nature. Correspondence with acquaintances isn’t very valuable for ad targeting, the majority of time. More sensitive communications that absolutely require encryption are even less lucrative for targeted advertising purposes.
This appears to be part of a growing trend towards privacy and security becoming selling points in the tech industry. If anything can defeat the surveillance state, it will be the corporate state. Let the games begin!