Restoring Privacy: Part 1 - Email

Privacy ยท

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I’m happy to see that privacy have become a hot topic recently and that the increasing number of people want to know who holds their data, what kind of data is it and why are those people and companies holding it? I don’t think that this trend will stop any time soon because most people don’t seem to like the answers to those questions when they see them.

Mailbox (post illustration)

Photo by Dayne Topkin

It’s very hard to get some privacy in the world that is dominated by a bunch of data hungry tech companies that follow your every step online. It’s not an exaggeration, Google has its trackers installed in more than 50% of popular web pages and that fact alone should make many people uncomfortable, but what about emails? Various data sources estimate that Google Gmail controls about 30 to 35 per cent of the global email market.

Why Email?

Making your email communications private is a good starting point for someone who wants to take back his or her data and make sure that no third party has access to it. Just a few decades ago, people didn’t have email accounts and they used paper mail instead. It was slow and expensive but I wonder how would our grandparents react if someone told them that their mail has been intercepted and examined by various third parties. This is some kind of scenario you would see in movies about totalitarian governments or other kinds of dystopias but that’s exactly what happens with many emails now.

Self Hosted Email Servers

Technically, you can set up your own email server. The problem is: it’s not easy, even for a person with a computer science degree. I’m not discouraging anyone from trying to set up their own email service but let’s say it’s not for everyone and it would be nice to have a solution that is accessible to a broader audience.

Email Services With Zero Access Policies

There are a few email providers who offer to store your emails in an encrypted form on their servers. ProtonMail is one example, but there are many others. Using those services is not different from using a Gmail account but you can be sure that your messages are safe from the nasty data companies and other advertisers.

I think that switching to an email provider that has a zero access policy is the easiest and most effective way to make your email communications private. Just don’t forget that more privacy comes with more responsibility and you have to pick a good password and make sure you don’t lose it. Zero access policy means that your password is the only key to your data and your email provider wouldn’t be able to restore your emails if you lose or forget your password.

Conclusion

Email is an essential tool that most of us use every day. Unfortunately, many people are unwillingly and unknowingly exposed to a constant surveillance of their email but there are relatively easy ways to opt out of this surveillance and take back control of our data. Cryptography is a wonderful thing and it can and should be used to fix many things that went wrong with the Internet in recent years.

This site doesn't have ads and the reasons are simple:

  • Most people don't want to see ads, that's not what they look for when they open web pages.
  • Ad scripts can track visitors, exposing private data to third parties.

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