“Privacy is the fountainhead of all other rights. Freedom of speech doesn’t have a lot of meaning if you can’t have a quiet space. A space within yourself, within your mind, within the community of your friends, within your home, to decide what it is you actually want to say,” – Edward Snowden.
With every email breach, every compromise in data and security, we become more attuned to the perils of being careless.
Email was never designed with security in mind. The earlier pioneers of networking simply intended it for communication. As tech giants realized the virtual goldmine of data at their hands, personal data was their currency. And email providers found a great way to monetize their ‘free services’.
What are the risks if you don’t use private and secure email in 2019?
The best precedent has been set by Google. It has collected reams of personal data over the years. The more data Google collected, the more value it gained. From what you like and dislike to your food preferences, to your hobbies and your friends. You are an easy target for products and services easily curated from this information.
Google scans all emails on the Gmail service. This also includes emails sent from other services.
All other providers of email now follow the same model as Google. Unfortunately, the use of private data is not restricted just to advertising and marketing. It is of more value to security agencies and government organizations like the NSA.
Government surveillance programmes have used email for years to spy on people.
Even Yahoo helped the Government by building a program to scan millions of emails for a specific keyphrase.
This has raised serious concerns about how secure email really is.
Nothing to hide argument
The most common argument that people have against being careful is that they don’t have anything to hide.
However, your right to privacy is a fundamental one. It is about trying to protect your personal information rather than hiding it.
Secondly, there is great abuse of your data in ways that you can’t potentially conceive.
You need access to private email to avoid threats like identity theft, ad targeting, discrimination based on personal data, harassment and so on.
What are your choices?
If you value your privacy then what are your options? First of all, we need to let go of the notion of ‘free private emails’. It is clearly an oxymoron when your privacy is the cost you are paying.
It costs a lot of effort, time and money to run an email service. So anytime you sign up for email, analyse carefully how it is funded.
Some free private emails are run by politically motivated groups and run mainly to provide privacy to similarly aligned individuals.
These services may run at a financial loss because they are not well funded.
Another option is PGP. Pretty Good Privacy or PGP is an open source technology that is operated and maintained at a cost. PGP encryption makes your emails secure and can be used on top of any email service, but very few of your contacts will also be using PGP.
This means you still need a private email service such as EPRIVO secure email for your needs.
What about browser-based encryption?
Convenience aside, a compromised server or hacker can certainly push compromised encryption keys to your browser as well as your recipients.
For most users, webmail may be fine. But not as secure as many of the private email service providers.
Free private email services and paid ones
Private and secure email services provide many robust security features including end-to-end email encryption. You can send encrypted emails to non-encrypted email users. You can use Android and iOS apps of these services to send emails via your device.
Features include IP log stripping and anonymous headless emails. Most providers have a free private email service option and a paid one with a tiered approach to the features.
When it comes to email privacy, the small cost attached is indeed an investment in your safety and security.