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> It's sent over https, isn't it?

That's actually more complicated than that.

If you're using a web mail, your connection to the mail provider most likely uses HTTPS. That is, HTTP over TLS. When the mail is sent, it depends whether the recipient uses the same provider or not. If it's the same provider, well, protocols are irrelevant. If not, it will usually be SMTP over TLS (minus any potential problems with STARTTLS).

The main problem with that is that the mail is not encrypted on the various servers it goes through. Only the server-to-server connections are encrypted. So your provider can access your email, and so can the recipient's. When that provider's business model is reading your emails so it can send you targeted adds, this is less than great. (Yes, Google reads your emails. They try to reassure you by telling you their employees don't read it, but the fact the process is automated actually makes it worse.)




Also, it might surprise some people just how many servers an email travels through to get to its destination. I just grabbed a random mail from a mailing list I'm on (generally a worst case scenario) and it had 7 Received headers. Every mail server is supposed to add a Received header when the mail passes through but there's no way to enforce that, so all I can really say is that mail probably passed through at least 7 servers on it's way to my inbox.

Each one of those hops may or may not have talked TLS to the next hop. Each one probably wrote the mail out to a disk based mail queue in plaintext. There is nothing preventing any of those 7 servers from keeping around that mail even though they forwarded it on. There is nothing preventing them from indexing the mail for spam or marketing purposes.




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