Gmail scanned my purchase documents

Gmail scannedThe realtor that we used to buy a new house sent all of the purchase documents through her Gmail account. So before the deal was done Google and its advertising partners had all of our information about our potential purchase. This will become public information when the title is transferred, but I was really disappointed to just give this information to Google. In a court document in 2013 a Google representative stated “Gmail users and their contacts have no reasonable expectation that their correspondences will not be scanned for the purpose of targeting advertising”.  Google had all of the transaction information before the seller had a chance to read the message. This is the world that we chose by wanting everything for free.

From the revised Google Privacy Policy on February 25, 2015 is says “When you share information with us, for example by creating a Google Account, we can make those services even better – to show you more relevant search results and ads”.  This applies to anyone that you send or receive information with through your Gmail account.  This applies to both parties in the message even if one does not have a Gmail account and has not agreed to the Google terms of service.

I know that I am more sensitive about this topic than most people because it is my job to help secure electronic information and intellectual property for people and businesses.

What options does a real estate professional have to protect client information from the big corporations providing email services? Not every email provider is as aggressive as Goggle to grab every bit of information about your business and personal transactions. Google does provide a free messaging system that is reliable and works across multiple types of devices, ie your iPhone, Microsoft desktop computer and your android tablet.  Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo and Zoho have free and paid email services that have similar features.  Many web hosting companies also provide email service with your own domain name for five dollars per month or less.

Microsoft Outlook gives you a choice between a free email account with unlimited email storage with advertising alongside the email message or a $20 per year account without any ads. Microsoft does not scan your email message to improve the ad placement for everything that you do online. This means the documents and messages to your clients are not spewed across that web to everyone that finds the information valuable.

America Online as an email provider is alive and well but dated like a house from the 80’s.  It has good bones, but needs a remodel.  AOL allows unlimited storage for your email messages, has spam protection and virus protection for your messages.  Ads are shown with the email messages.

Yahoo email is free, ad supported messaging that reads everything inside your message.  The Yahoo’s terms of service were changed in June, 2013 to allow content scanning and analyzing of your communications content to target ads, offer products and preform “abuse protection”. This is the same type of policy that Google is using for its email service.  At Yahoo you can store up to one terabyte of email information, many years of your life online.

Zoho creates online applications and is a source for free email.  The Zoho experience includes 5 gigabytes of online storage for your email, with no ads.  You can purchase your own domain name, to promote your brand.  Yes that domain is available for $10/year.  Zoho’s free account includes up to 10 accounts with the same domain name and use of their online office applications.

The last option is paying for a domain and web hosting. This is also an affordable way to promote your image.  You will pay more for business cards over the next three years than you will for web hosting and email with a domain name.  $130 gets three years of email and hosting for a web site for your business identity.