With the privacy issues, of Gmail combing through your data and government being able to get into your email without your permission (seeing as it is a US company), not to mention the censorship Google has begun doing on YouTube, domains, and even blogs, it’s time we start taking our privacy and security back.
Of course, one of the first things most people will say is “but using Google is so convenient.” While it is true, using Google is extremely convenient, Google earns about 97% of its revenue from advertisements, and the more they learn about you, the more they are capable of selling to you.
Google does not care about your own privacy one bit for its over 1 billion users. To prove this point here is what an ex-CEO of Google said:
“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place, but if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines – including Google – do retain this information for some time; and it’s important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act. It is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities.” — Eric Schmidt
Google is estimated to have 15 exabytes of stored data (15 million terabytes), which I, and many experts, think is a very low estimate when you know how large servers and racks can be.
Technically I can line up about 4-5 server racks side by side, the length of my Jeep Liberty, whilst fitting about 1 petabyte (1,000 terabytes) of data in two 6U servers per rack. So, in about the length of my Jeep I can 5PB of data.
Now, Google any of the Google datacenters from a map application and see cars next to it for scale. You suddenly see how that number grows incredibly fast. Don’t think of this data in just “wow that’s a lot of movies and music,” think of it as your private tax records, private correspondence with your accountant, lawyer, family, or even private photos and videos of you and your significant other doing things you don’t want the public to see.
Now, let’s remember what Eric Schmidt said above. He and Google think it’s ok to know absolutely everything about you.
Google really has zero incentive to delete any data about you because that’s how they gain their money. The same goes for Yahoo, Microsoft, and other companies offering you free services.
How much of your privacy are you sacrificing by handing it over to these services?
Yahoo should definitely never be used due to the security (or lack thereof) they have employed; combine that with the fact that the USA has backdoor access to everything at Yahoo – even more so than Google .
Microsoft has “tailored ads” that can deliver ads tailored to you directly in the operating system and even in the file explorer.
So their email system on Outlook.com or even Hotmail.com undoubtedly has the same privacy invasions akin to Google.
Even Pokémon Go apparently has some ties to the US intelligence community. As John Hanke, founder of Niantic, once founded a company called Keyhole which was created with seed money from In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital arm, which eventually was purchased by Google Maps.
(If you want to go further down that rabbit hole I recommend watching Bryan Lunduke’s (a board member of the OpenSUSE project as well as a journalist) lecture on the subject at the Linux Northwest Conference .
This article is more about providing you alternatives to the Google ecosystem, to help you free yourself and regain your privacy.
I do not get paid for any of the products I mention; I’ve merely used them in the past, or have associates who like them for various reasons.
Some are for more technical people, some are for the regular user.
Noticeably, the price you pay for sacrificing Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo is usually one of monetary concern. Whether it be hosting your own server, or having an entity host it for you.
This is an email server suite, that means you have to operate your own server, do all the administration for it, and do the foot work to have it white listed by the bigger email providers.
But in terms of email servers it’s the easiest one I have ever used.
It has built in contact and calendar functions for both web browsers and syncing to your devices. I personally use this email server suite, and it is the one we also use at Being Libertarian. It is completely Free, Libre, and Open Source and easily deploys onto an Ubuntu server. It is actively developed by a community, where even I myself have contributed some fixes, or found some bugs.
It’s by far the most technical server suite, but I have been running my own personal server for about two years flawlessly aside from the usual email administration hiccups you come to expect from having to whitelist domains and maintain a good server reputation.
My contacts, calendar, and email all work flawlessly via Mozilla Thunderbird an email client and calendar program for Mac, Windows, and GNU/Linux made by the same entity that created Mozilla Firefox.
It also works flawlessly on Blackberry, iOS, Android, Outlook, Apple Mail, and more (as it’s built on open standards).
I recommend hosting it on a Virtual Private Server (VPS) host such as Digital Ocean, Linode, or even an Amazon Web Services server. You can run it out of your house, but, a lot of ISPs will block some of the ports you need, and you will need a static IP address (most likely) for best results.
Your email server, even just out of the box, will be far more secure than Hillary Clinton’s disastrous unencrypted laughing stock of an email server. Though, if you do plan on going this route, I recommend making some security tweaks to Fail2Ban, and installing a good blacklist such as the one I use available on Github.
This a great option for maximum privacy, to the point if any authorities want to read your emails, you are now the email provider and they have to give you a warrant. It is the most involved option and will require some technical knowledge to maintain; but, once I had it all setup, I automated the updates and only need to hop back on for manual MiaB upgrades.
FastMail is a good provider; they will not hand over your data for advertising reasons and will not parse your emails to collect data on you.
They provide a great email system according my friends who use them (friends that didn’t want to take the route of building their own email server as I did).
They have a monthly or yearly fee, but with that price you are selling your privacy away. However they are hosted in Australia, so you will need to be aware that they are bound by Australian privacy laws, just as any service which is based in the USA is bound by US laws.
It will work with all of your devices, however the code is not Free, Libre, or Open Sourced the way MiaB is.
ProtonMail ( https://protonmail.com/)
This is by far one of the most secure email options (all emails are completely encrypted); on top of that the data centers are located in Switzerland, which has some of the most amazing privacy laws in the entire world (in terms of not only accessing your data for their own country’s intelligence, but also in terms of handing over their data to another country entirely).
All emails sent into ProtonMail are encrypted to the point where not even the operators of ProtonMail can read your emails on their servers.
However, because of how their servers work, you cannot natively use them with any email client, so you will have to use their Android or iOS application, and on desktops, will have to use the web browser.
Of course, with that mentioned, this means they also can’t sync your contacts and calendars.
They do have a free plan (unlike FastMail) however it is limited to only 500MB, 150 messages per day, and limited support, but you can upgrade at any time.
They also offer a few options to upgrade for a monthly cost
Plus: €4.00 per month
- 5 GB storage
- Send up to 1000 messages per day
- Labels and Custom Filters and Folders
- Send encrypted messages to external recipients
- Use your own domain (ex: [email protected])
- Up to 5 email aliases
- Priority Customer Support
Visionary: €24.00 per month
- 20GB storage
- Up to 50 email aliases
- Support for up to 10 domains
- Multi-User Support (5 total)
- No sending limits (Not to be used for Spam/unsolicited emails or for bulk email sending)
- Labels and Custom Filters and Folders
- Send encrypted messages to external recipients
- Early access to new features
- Includes access to ProtonVPN
They even offer business plans at €6.25 per month per user. So it’s a great solution for simple email encryption without having to employ GnuPG tools to encrypt emails as I do. It also appears some of their source code is also available for review on GitHub under an MIT license.
Kolab Now (https://kolabnow.com)
While ProtonMail is a nice option, it doesn’t have the ability to replace the G-Suite or Office 365 webmail, calendar, and contacts abilities like FastMail could.
But FastMail is in Australia, which doesn’t have as great laws as Switzerland.
Kolab, however, is a great solution all around. They offer hosting options that start at 4.55 Swiss Francs per month, and they even accept Bitcoin on top of it all.
The code is under various Free, Libre, and Open Source Software licenses as it is a conglomeration of multiple software packages. You can see it being worked on by the company and regular individuals here on their Git page.
You can also choose to host your own Kolab server just like Mail-in-a-Box with the documentation here. So, you have the flexibility of self hosting or you can use a provider to do all the hosting and support for you. I have many friends who use, and swear by, Kolab.
At the end of it all, these are all great solutions to this problem and I am sure there are some more out there as well. But it’s important to realize that while the services may be “free” monetarily speaking, you’re sacrificing a lot of privacy in exchange.
You can’t put a price on piece of mind, privacy, and the security of knowing that your data belongs to only you.
This post was written by Alon Ganon.
The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.
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