I don’t know if this has always been the case or not, but I found a very worrying “feature” of Google’s popular Gmail service this evening, one that should make you very concerned about your privacy if you’re also a Gmail user:
Yeah, that’s a problem. That’s a big privacy problem.
Let me show you what I noticed when I received an email from the Hilton Honors program that had what appeared to be a very innocuous link within.
First, the message:
Innocuous enough, right? Notice within the link to “hiltonhhonors.com”. I clicked on it and was surprised to see that the new tab opened in Firefox showed a Google URL for just a fraction of a second, rather than the Hilton URL which ultimately was displayed.
What the heck?
I tried a bunch of ways to capture it and finally just got a quick screenshot in. Here’s the URL:
A second later, of course, the URL was as I expected:
Was Gmail rewriting the messages, I wondered? Turns out that’s darn hard to ascertain because of how Gmail uses AJAX to present messages. I finally used “File” –> “Save Frame As…” to get to the source code:
Needless to say, this is highly concerning to me, as someone who has been using Google Gmail for years, and has brought literally hundreds of other people into the Gmail fold.
Google, can you tell me exactly what’s going on here?