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[liberationtech] question about browser/Gmail subject line / browser history exposure

Katrin Verclas katrin at
Wed Jul 4 14:15:42 PDT 2012

Hi, Robert, thanks for that. 

See below. 

On Jul 4, 2012, at 8:55 AM, Robert Guerra wrote:

> Katrin,
> Likely what  is being displayed is the HTML page title, which google updates per each email that is viewed or composed.

Yeah but that's a choice gmail/fb make for some usability/ease of use/whatever reason that backfires for those users dependent on internet cafes who are not deleting their browser history. 

Of course, as was pointed out to me, there is also the problem of keylogger software on many computers in many cafes in many repressive countries that records passwords etc.... which, of course, is an important related issue but not one I am getting into here :) 

> The data being displayed is - sensitive data - as such would likely have been included in the privacy impact analysis that all GNI companies need to do

Has the privacy impact analysis been released? I am copying Susan on this to shed light on how and what role GNI plays in this (not clear on this but Sudan can enlighten us) 

> . If there's a variation between them on this, then that should be pointed out. 

Between Yahoo v gmail?  Is that what you mean?  Trying to understand what you are getting at... 

And yes, seems like an easy fix that would increase privacy for users on shared computers without a huge loss of usability. 

> Robert
> --
> R. Guerra
> Phone/Cell: +1 202-905-2081
> Twitter: 
> Email: rguerra at
> On 2012-07-04, at 7:52 AM, Katrin Verclas wrote:
>> Hi all -- 
>> Question for you:  A colleague noticed in an Internet cafe (in a repressive country) that in FireFox and Chrome the browser history reveals the subject line of gmail. The history also reveals the name of the person a user Facebook-messaged and profile pages visited.  The same was not true for Yahoo or hotmail. 
>> See below for a sample screenshot that illustrates what I am talking about (using the latest version of FF on Mac OS)  It seems to be a function of gmail/FB not the browser (same happens in Chrome and Safari, did not try for IE).  As I said, Yahoo mail and Hotmail do not reveal the subject line in the history as far as we could see.
>> So - is this and oversight or deliberate on the part of Gmail/F? 
>> It seems potentially rather problematic since most users do not delete their history nor use any private browsing features or software when in an internet cafe.  We looked at detailed name/subject line/FB social grapsh in the browser history of machines in the cafe for at least eight months back). With this information it is very easy to see an individual's activity without any other digital logs installed.  
>> Curious about this from a technical POV and whether it can be fixed by Gmail/Facebook.  We can involve the right people there; after understanding this better. 
>> In the meantime, this definitely should be covered in any trainings (that is - do not use a a sensitive or revealing subject line, delete your history, browse in private mode, etc) 
>> Thanks for any insights.
>> Best,
>> Katrin 
>> <Screen shot 2012-07-04 at 7.37.19 AM.png>

Katrin Verclas
katrin at

skype/twitter: katrinskaya
(347) 281-7191

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