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Multiple Gmail Accounts: Where is the Privacy?

Problem statement: a very annoying “feature” in Gmail’s multiple account management may cause some serious privacy issues when you do not know about it and handle accordingly.
Motivation:As a fervent user of Gmail and a supporter of Google, I still need to spread the word of this privacy “loophole”.
Findings: Multiple Gmail account management in Gmail does not quite protect your privacy.
Conclusion: Make sure you manually switch to different Gmail accounts if you wish have your main Gmail account hidden.

Now, Gmail is a great (e-mail) service. Good user interface, lots of space, everything sounds good. Heck, Google even allows you to have multiple accounts. That is good, right?

“Right.”

Right, as with multiple accounts, you can e-mail in different environments accordingly. For instance, you could have a Gmail account solely for

  • Online Non Serious Chatting using a random addy like onlinebuddychat (at) gmail.com
  • Online Adult Chatting using a random addy like 20F_USA_blonde (at) gmail.com
  • Professional business using your real name addy like FirstnameLastname (at) gmail.com

*I am not related to these accounts, but I guess there is no need to have them tracked by spambot just to make a point, so I replaced @ with (at) to slow that down.

Indeed, these three different group of contacts never have to meet. That is the power of different gmail accounts. Even better, Gmail lets you forward all the incoming mails to a different e-mail. In this case, you could let all of your e-mails be forwarded to your real addy so you do not have to check up on all of them for e-mails individually and manually. Great, right?

“Right.”

Right, it is user friendly and it has a high degree of manageability from one point of access.

Even better: you can assign a main account and give permission to let that account send e-mails from the other accounts. That means you can have multiple accounts, have all those accounts send mail to one account, and send emails from that one account using the addresses of the other accounts. Fantastic, right?

“Right.”

Wrong. You see, when you use your main account to send e-mails through your other accounts, people can see both gmail addresses!

Note: when you’re sending with a different ‘From:’ address, your Gmail address will still be included in your email header’s sender field, to help prevent your mail from being marked as spam. Most email clients don’t display the sender field, though some versions of Microsoft Outlook may display “From yourusername@gmail.com on behalf of customaddress@mydomain.com.”

This “feature” utterly destroys any privacy you might have had with multiple Gmail accounts. To avoid that, you need to manually log into the other accounts. In this Google Groups thread, you can see a Google employee named Sarah (title: Gmail Guide Yellow) explain this:

Certain spam filters look at the authorized IP addresses for a given domain when deciding whether to accept mail. If mail comes from a Gmail IP address, but the headers indicate it was sent by a non-Gmail address, some domains may refuse to accept it. Using the Sender field helps to ensure that we can deliver legitimate messages to domains using a variety of spam-prevention measures.

However, there are examples given in that thread to avoid this spam problem. So this is not an impossible task to avoid for Google. I refuse to believe that even if I did not see suggestions proposed in that thread and elsewhere. And even so, allowing users to decide for themselves to take that risk of not having their e-mails sent through using their secondary accounts is still better than having your main address revealed every time you use that to send e-mails using the other addresses.

Till that time: only use this feature if you do not mind having both accounts involved revealed to the receiver of your e-mails. If not, sign into your secondary accounts individually/manually to send these e-mails. If you use something like Outlook to send e-mails using Gmail, you can switch accounts there without this problem.

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