Let’s talk anonymity. Did you know that it’s not just the sender address that you’re sharing when you send an email? There’s a lot more information within an email that could be used to identify you. Just one look at the full email header can provide routing information, and this alone could be enough to identify you.
Why are the normal email providers not a good option?
So what do you do when you want to send sensitive information? Anonymous email. Let’s look at the best options you have to send an anonymous email. Sure. You’ll get a pretty decent service when using a standard email provider, but this alone can leave your privacy at risk. And it’s no secret that the services have to generate income. And big shocker: that’s usually from ads. But how do they know that you’re in the market for a new pair of shoes? By following your browsing habits?
So each email has a header, and this is where the metadata information is stored. A sender’s IP address can then be viewed by anyone curious enough to look at the ex-originating IP or original IP lines. Then from the IP address, you can collect ISP and nearest address information. This means information such as your city, state, zip code, internet service provider, and more could be in reach for a cyber-criminal.
How can I send a private and anonymous email?
So let’s look at how to send an anonymous email. First of all, if you’re looking to send a private email, it’s important to remember two things, hiding your real IP address and using a secure email service provider. Sure. Yahoo and Google are pretty good with storage and simplicity. But they’re the worst in the privacy department. So if you’re serious about your security, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
While there’s not a one-fix solution, if you’re after a private conversation via email, you’ve got a couple of options. Use an encrypted email service. This functions just like your regular service but is way safer.
It not only covers your emails but inbox and contact lists too. So anyone that’s spying on your traffic can wave goodbye to reading your emails. Now we’ve all heard of Disposable emails. They’ll help you fight spam when registered on shady websites. Usually, they’ll expire after a fixed period, or you’ll be able to send a message without actually registering. Meaning there’s no account to track back to you. It sounds nice, though; this might not be a daily fix. Resetting accounts registered on a disposable address can get a little tricky. So use disposable emails when you know there’s little chance; you’ll need to use them again in the future.
Hide your IP address if you want prime anonymity. It’s important to hide that IP. A sure way to do this is by using a no-logs VPN or a Tor browser. A VPN will hide your actual address through encryption, and Tor will pass your connection through network nodes, making you virtually untraceable (not entirely, though). Even some VPNs use these technologies in conjunction for prime security. A good example is NordVPN which is questionable and would not advise anyone to use it.
When you’re sending a word document, the metadata in the file could be your giveaway. Metadata is data that gives information about other data. Your full name and personal information could be hidden within this metadata. A way around being traced when sending documents is to take a screenshot and strip any EXIF data from it. On windows, you can even find a built-in tool called document inspector. With this, you can remove all the information from a file so that it isn’t shared with this file. Or, if you really can’t live without Gmail or Yahoo, you could simply create a new account using false information. But it’s important to remember that your cyber movements are still being tracked, and these companies must share this information with authority. So it isn’t the best option.
Email Providers with Anonymity and Privacy Capabilities
Let’s move on to the big guys who care about privacy. Almost any of these email providers will offer a much more anonymous platform than generic providers. Let’s cover five actually private and secure email providers that also offer a modern, user-friendly experience because good luck getting your uncle or grandma to care about PGP if the UI looks like it’s from 2001. The average person wants an email service that doesn’t stalk every pixel in their inbox
Start mail from the creators of the start page, the privacy-oriented search engine. This service has modern user interfaces along with some of its features. The $60 per year price tag is steep, but for that cost, you get all of the basics and 10 gigabytes of email storage, password-based email encryption, PGP support, and the secret sauce, unlimited alias.
Aliasing is an extremely powerful privacy tool to keep your real email safe. Having an unlimited number of them at your disposal is a perk that really can’t be overstated. Simple login is a great aliasing tool, but this service could replace it if you want everything under the same provider.
There are downsides such as:
- The lack of native mobile clients
- Nothing is open-source
- Extra charge for custom domain support.
- The most notable missing feature in start mail is the complete lack of calendar support, but this does seem to be on the radar.
Outside that, this service is a compelling option with overall decent usability
One of the most user-friendly experiences we came across was Fastmail. Fastmail operates with four core values. All of which prioritize the privacy and security of your data supports native mobile apps, clean webmail, and all the features you’d expect from a modern email service, such as, you know, labels, folders, filters, spam blocking aliases, fully-featured calendars, and no ads or tracking. After a 30-day free trial, pricing starts at less than $3 a month if you pay annually. The standard and professional tiers allow you to use your domains and give you the option to use the service with your favorite third-party client. There are also a million domains to choose from when you upgrade accounts. So you have plenty of address options at your disposal. It’s not open source, but all in all, FastMail is a highly polished service that we believe strikes a pretty good balance between privacy and usability.
Tutanota One of the most trusted providers in the privacy community Tutanota has open source clients, including native mobile and desktop apps, calendar support, and some of the highest standards for data security, including zero-knowledge encryption and an option to password-protect your emails to other people, even those not using Tutanota. Despite Tutanota’s top-notch safety, we think the user experience is lackluster.
- It’s just not an efficient user interface to navigate. It has little annoyance.
- Missing some functionality found in other providers.
- Email search on the free plan is limited to four weeks into the past
- The pricing structure is also a bit odd.
While the free tier is generous, their feature set is limited, and the premium tier, while affordable, doesn’t provide any additional storage, you have to either upgrade to the teams’ tier at four euros per month or purchase 10 gigabytes outright for an additional two euros per month. Despite these quirks, Tutanota is a great option for users chasing privacy and, at the cost of at least today, a less polished experience than other services on this list.
CTemplar, a completely self-funded email provider based in Iceland; well funded with your payments. This service packs a punch with its awesome usability and privacy features. The web experience is clean and intuitive, and their clients are open source, albeit less polished than the web.
Their security is where the service shines. They have a strict, no data retention policy, and when you click delete, your data is actually deleted right then and there. They also utilize zero access encryption and provide extra protection against phishing and a man in the middle of text. They have a transparency report, a warrant Canary, and they even accept Monero for payment, which is awesome.
Their free account is also pretty generous, with one gigabyte of storage and unlimited folders and filters. Unfortunately, there is no calendar support, and it’s worth noting that you have to email the company to receive an invite code for a free account. The pricing is on the higher end, but for that price, you get custom domain support, aliases, more storage, and access to cool features like self-destructing emails, delayed delivery, catch-all domains, and a dead man timer.
One thing to keep on your radar is that Ctemplar quite literally lost some people’s attachments in their emails. Then later lost all of some people’s emails. Like all of them in another incident, not to mention some users, weren’t thrilled about Ctemplar’s response to this, or kind of lack thereof. We’d like to see them come forward and reassure their users that they won’t just wake up to find their emails missing. Despite all of this, we still think Ctempler is extremely underrated and does an excellent job of balancing usability with privacy and security.
Our top choice is by far the most well-known private email service available. And that’s Proton mail. Aside from its top-notch privacy security, hitting all the right checkmarks, all their clients are open source, and the service offers super attractive features like email imports to make the switch easily from your previous provider.
One of the most attractive aspects for the average person is proton’s attempt at a Google-like suite, which offers cloud storage, calendar supports, and a VPN. We say attempt because it’s not yet a great experience with full support, limited to the web. It’s also worth mentioning that proton mail’s mobile clients are awful. There was no dark mode, no F-droid app, and outdated UI. However, the webmail experience is overall great, and their new mobile apps have been in beta for almost two years. So we might see a nice mobile experience.
Criticisms aside, proton mail has a very usable free tier with the plus option unlocking all the features you’d expect from a premium, modern email service and making it hard to not play as a number one service.
To recap, Startmail and Fastmail offer a very user-friendly experience with average privacy. Tutanota has fantastic privacy and security at the cost of a lackluster user experience. CTemplar is a great email-only solution with excellent privacy practices, and proton mail continues to be one of the best services to balance features, user experience, and privacy and security.
The time has come to take your cybersecurity seriously and think outside of generic email providers; the best option would be to combine several methods to reach the ultimate level of privacy and security. This will not only help you stay sickle when writing private emails, but it will also help you to be vigilant in daily browsing.
Finally, we have a few questions. First, what is your favorite email provider? It can be anything but don’t say Gmail. Second. What is the next thing you would like us to talk about? Let us know your answers to both of these in the comments below. We hope this made choosing an email provider simple. See you next time.