MintDice is proud to bring you a CryptoSmarts series, a 100% unbiased/non-affiliate paid article set that will focus on relatively simple ways you can boost your privacy, take power away from overbearing governments and corporations while also doing relative good for society all at the same time with minimal effort. Rest assured that anything suggested here is solely for your own benefit.
The first part of the series will look at e-mail providers. This article will partially educate you on the important aspects to look for when choosing an e-mail provider and after that synopsis, provide you with a number of different e-mail providers to choose from.
Why should I care?
As far as basic security goes, e-mail tends to be part of the foundation of people's internet lives. For many websites and account providers, having an e-mail is the very basis for signing up. As a focal point to one's existence on the internet, even if they get relatively minimal use in the present day relative to social media or the like, they still leave a very large fingerprint and metadata which governments and corporations can and will only use against you for their own benefit.
Most people these days use Gmail accounts through Google. Unfortunately, it's been documented that Gmail reads and scans all outgoing and incoming content for metadata which it will then use to create a profile about yourself which it can then use to target you with advertising or pin you to certain demographics. As is often said, if the product is free, then you are the product. And as is the case with the tech giants like Google, them offering you a free e-mail account is anything but free. There are consequences with accepting such providers that trace you with every step you take as you navigate around the web.
Fortunately, there are many ways to circumvent this, even at no cost. There are many e-mail providers that cost mere pennies per day to operate and some are even free with paid versions if you want expanded functionality, storage or other such services. And the question must then be asked: If you can do so much to the backbone of your internet operations for $0.00 - $0.05 per day, why not? It's affordable for virtually all budgets and goes a long way to protecting yourself and taking power away from higher authorities and bringing it back to the common person.
The highest cost for most people probably isn't the actual cost of the e-mail but rather switching from their current e-mail account to a new one. I'd argue this is more than worth the temporal investment. Even if it takes you 10 or 20 hours to switch your accounts and contacts over to a new e-mail address, you will now have a solid e-mail to fall back on for years and decades to come. It will pay dividends to you in ways that you can't even imagine yet that will increase over time as well as privacy continues to weaken across the board worldwide. The sooner you switch, the better off you'll be and the happier you'll end up becoming in the long run. Also, the sooner you switch, the less work it will take you to eventually switch over in the long run as well.
What should I look for in e-mail providers?
There are many issues that can make or break good e-mail providers and we'll try to keep it as simple as possible:
- Not based in one of the five eyes or preferably one of the 14 eyes countries.
- Encrypts account data and makes end-to-end encryption easy and streamlined.
- Protects a users IP address, doesn't require overbearing user information to sign up.
- Accepts payment in Bitcoin / cryptocurrency.
- Uses a whole host of best industry security practices beyond the scope of discussion here.
- Reputable long standing companies in good standing with the privacy community and non-shady / honest marketing practices.
The bullet point list right there will cover most of what's important. You really want to be able to trust your provider, so them having both an ethical reputation but also using best security practices and open-sourced protocols when possible will help ensure you that everything is on the up and up. Meanwhile, you also need to make sure that things are kosher on your own end which can include financial privacy, such as the ability to pay in Bitcoin. By paying in Bitcoin, you can help cut the parasitic cycle brought on by payment processing companies and other such entities that are tracking all of your financial moves. On the last basis, you need to make sure that entities outside the scope of both yourself and the company are in good standing. This is why it's best to have it based in one of the less spy-heavy jurisdictions, to minimize this possible threat vector.
Recommended E-mail Services For Privacy
We've put together a concise list of some of the best e-mail providers out there that have many built in privacy features and a check box for what these services offer presently as of September 2020. This check-list is not comprehensive by any means and intentionally skips over many pieces of data pertaining to all of these websites in order to simplify things for you.
Knowing that, when you are choosing an e-mail, use the table as a very rough guide to select one. Make sure you are comfortable with the name of the domain as you may have to publish this domain name multiple times as you often have to list e-mails (unless of course, you use your own domain). Secondly, browse each website to see if they are compatible with your needs in terms of direct services or a UI/UX feel that you are comfortable with. Each site may speak to different users. Do keep in mind that while some sites may offer various services that others do not offer on the table, all of these websites are extremely high quality and a massive step up from using Gmail or any other such mega-provider.
If you have gotten your new free or paid account, congratulations! Your next step is to start getting full use out of this account ASAP and to ditch your current and presumably bad provider. You'll want to, over some spare time, figure out all of the accounts that you own, which is easier if you have a password manager (something that will be covered in MintDice's CryptoSmarts at a later date), and begin migrating everything from your former e-mail account to your new e-mail account.
Secondly, you'll need to inform all of your old e-mail contacts in your address book that you are switching e-mails. You may also want to temporarily activate e-mail forwarding from your old e-mail to your new e-mail for the months that follow so that you don't lose out on anything important. Soon enough, you'll find your old e-mail to be as good as dust. At such a point in time, you'll want to save any e-mails (if necessary) and delete all of your old e-mails and/or deactivate the account completely to begin to untether yourself from the megacorp overlords.
Thirdly, if you have truly sensitive data, take matters into your own hands and use OpenPGP or other such protocols that will encrypt your own messages. This way, you don't have to trust even trusted third parties. While moderately inconvenient, it can offer yet another tool if you want to increase your personal privacy while also using the better services in the first place.
Lastly, encourage any like-minded privacy seeking friends to engage in similar behavior if you end up becoming happy with your new privacy e-mail provider. Simple steps like this such as encouraging some relatives and close friends can have exponential effects that can have hugely positive impacts on society at large.