Google has added full email encryption to Gmail as a standard feature, securing the service’s large user base from the possibility of digital snooping.

At the moment, Gmail users log in to servers using https, which encrypts all password communications between the client and the email server. Beyond that, until now, they would have had to log in using one of the company’s designated encryption servers (https://mail.google.com) to access the feature for messages.

In a blog on the topic, Gmail engineer, Ariel Rideout, reveals that users can now log in using any server and then set encryption using the settings tab. The downside is performance – using encryption will slow down the service.

“If you don't regularly log in via unencrypted wireless connections at coffee shops or airports or college dorms, then you might not need this additional layer of security. But if you want to always use https, then this setting makes it super easy,” says Rideout.

The feature could also be used with Google Apps, but not yet the Google Toolbar, or special editions of Gmail such as the mobile edition, though the company was working on a fix for this incompatibility, he writes. However, admins for Google Apps Premier Edition will soon be able to use SSL, promises Rideout.