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How Many of Your Emails Does Google Have?


"The numbers are higher than I imagined and reflect somewhat depressing news."

A person prepares to search the internet using the Google search engine, on May 14, 2014, in Lille. In a surprise ruling on May 13, the EU's top court said individuals have the right to ask US Internet giant Google to delete personal data produced by its ubiquitous search engine. (PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

You might want to keep your emails out of the hands of big tech companies, but it's a nearly impossible task -- even if you run your own email server.

Benjamin Mako Hill does just that, but Google still has access to a shocking amount of his messages.

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"For almost 15 years, I have run my own email server which I use for all of my non-work correspondence," Hill wrote on his blog. "I do so to keep autonomy, control, and privacy over my email and so that no big company has copies of all of my personal email."

Of course, running your own server doesn't magically keep all of your emails hidden -- if you respond to an email coming from a big tech company address, like a Gmail account, the company gets the message.

Hill wanted to see how much of his personal email Google had, so he wrote a program to analyze his email.

The results were astounding.

"Despite the fact that I spend hundreds of dollars a year and hours of work to host my own email server, Google has about half of my personal email!" he wrote. "Last year, Google delivered 57% of the emails in my inbox that I replied to."

Hill noted that the 57 percent figure was for Google alone -- other big tech companies undoubtedly had access to other chunks of his personal messages.

The revelation is a reflection of the interconnected nature of the Internet and the near-impossibility of keeping anything truly private.

"The numbers are higher than I imagined and reflect somewhat depressing news," Hill mused. "They show how it’s complicated to think about privacy and autonomy for communication between parties."

(H/T: Gizmodo)

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