At 8:27 a.m., Google sent a tweet that, with a collective groan, ground work to a halt in cities across the United States.
“Gmail is currently experiencing a service-wide outage. Please stay tuned for updates.”
Email, this just isn’t your year. From mysterious glitches at Silicon Valley companies to relentless Russian hackers, these past few months have proved that the digital replacement for snail mail isn’t as stable, secure or reliable as many of us once thought it was.
Just consider all that has happened this week.
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On Tuesday, word broke that hackers had pilfered and posted several personal emails from former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Among the juicier details: He called Republican nominee Donald Trump “a national disgrace,” and complained that aides to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton were trying to “drag” him into the drama surrounding her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.
Also on Tuesday, the World Anti-Doping Agency reported a breach. Hackers, purportedly from Russia, wiggled their way into a database and released medical information about Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, as well as tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams.
Poor Biles had to reveal that she takes medication for ADHD and that she had permission to use the normally prohibited substance during the Rio Games.
On Wednesday, House Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Mike McCaul dropped a bombshell on CNN, saying hackers had breached the Republican National Committee’s computers. Although the RNC quickly denied the claim, the Texas Republican said the intruders were the same Russian operatives who hacked the Democratic National Committee’s servers in July.
That hack, which exposed hundreds of embarrassing emails from party officials about Clinton’s primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, occurred right before the Clinton campaign’s own servers were breached.
“They are not discriminating one party against the other,” McCaul warned.
That’s what makes this so unnerving. No matter how amusing or enlightening the details contained in some of these leaks are, the ramifications for trusting email aren’t good. Not for businesses or for government.
And yet, according to Pew Research Center, more than 60 percent of American workers say email is “very important” to their jobs. No wonder that Gmail outage launched a thousand dumpster-fire memes.
Silicon Valley, we may be in need of a disruption.