A story of Gmail war on spam, and plans for end-to-end encrypted mail

Posted on 2014/09/06

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Mike Hearn is a security expert that worked on prevention of spam and abuse at Google, and on Bitcoin-related systems. He wrote a rich but clear mail that gives a good perspective on the effort that email providers must pay to be able to fight spam effectively:

Modern anti-spam and E2E crypto (via reddit.com/r/programming).

The essay contains many interesting concepts and views about the problem:

  • The trade-offs between usability and security
  • The economic aspects and their impact when scaling up the system
  • The analogy with warfare in terms of tactics and strategy
  • The trade-offs between how much you protect your users and how little you need to know about them

A tangential thought I had while reading the essay was related to the trust I put in Google and other similar companies. Many times in these years I had the conversation “we are giving too much information to Google, they can do whatever they want with our data and with us”, but I feel confident and trustful. There are human beings that work at those companies and know the inner aspects of the systems, and while the stereotype of the nerd includes the trait of being socially inept, these people feel the burden of doing the right thing to a multitude of people. If one company is doing evil things, some of their employees won’t sleep at night, because they are not evil; this is an environment that spawns whistle-blowers. Many times in these years I had the conversation about the trust we give to big companies, but I feel confident and trustful because if something intentionally abusive were happening, whistles would have been blown. To keep this true, it’s important that our society protects the courage of these people, who are the immune system of the information industry, and distinguish them from those who sell company information for their own profit.

 

Posted in: Security