NSA's internet surveillance includes scanning your emails to extract data. When contacted, the officials are always defensive stating that only a few metadata are collected from emails.. that's all. And the fact is almost all of us believe that's not really a big deal.

But MIT researchers Daniel Smilkov, Deepak Jagdish and César Hidalgo disagree and started a project to show what exactly these metadata could reveal about you.

Immersion NSA gmail metadata visualization

The Immersion Project

The project named "Immersion" collects exactly these metadata from your Gmail account and gives you a visualization of what can be learned. Just visit immersion.media.mit.edu and give permission to access your gmail metadata. You will be surprised to see a near complete picture of your personal or professional social life getting revealed.

Please note that none of your email content is scanned. Only metadata like sender, size, email frequency and a host of others parameters are regressed using the immersion algorithm. It not only reveals who you are connected with, but also guesses pretty accurately how your contacts are separately connected and by how much. Here's a detailed video from the creators -

You would now be scratching your head thinking what you can do to safeguard your internet-social-email-life? Not a lot actually, but precautions can help. Google doesn't have a choice when government agencies demand sharing data. But what's in your email is up-to you.

  • Make it a habit to move suspicious emails to spam folder so Gmail will delete them automatically and block similar emails in future. If you really want to keep them for a few days, use the auto-delete script to delete them as they get old.
  • Its never a good idea to start email-friendships with people on your social networks unless you know them personally. A Facebook profile never reflects the person's real-life personality.
  • Be careful while sending group emails from your personal email address. Make sure you know everybody in the list.
  • Make your email address secure and protected. Hacked email ids ofter get used for malicious purposes and scams. Most email providers provide multiple verification methods to secure your email.
  • Check your email activity once in a while to make sure there are no peeping-toms looking at your email without your knowledge.

So use your email with care. Be smart, be careful, be safe.