The Illusion of Privacy in Your Email Inbox: How to Safeguard Your Information

The Illusion of Privacy in Your Email Inbox: How to Safeguard Your Information
Photo by Brett Jordan / Unsplash

Email has become a ubiquitous form of communication in both personal and professional spheres. However, the expectation of complete privacy within your email inbox is one that should be approached with caution. Despite efforts to increase security measures, and promises from some of the largest providers, the reality is that email platforms are not entirely private or secure, and even paying for a services does not guarantee the level of privacy or security you would expect. Your email address alone is worth around $90 to any brand, and its estimated for companies like facebook and Google that they profited almost 600 dollars on average from user's data. So in most cases your information is worth a couple hundred dollars and in some cases thousands of dollars. You are the commodity here and you're being sold whether you know it or not.

Why You Shouldn't Expect Privacy in Your Email Inbox:

Data Mining: Data is the new gold, and Email providers have access to the content of your emails and use this information for targeted advertising. This process, known as data mining, involves analyzing email content to deliver personalized ads, which compromises your privacy.

Third-Party Access: Email service providers may share your data with third-party companies for various purposes, such as marketing or analytics. This sharing of information raises concerns about who has access to your emails and how they are being used. Services like Microsoft's Outlook have become data collection services transmitting your data to 800+ external partners, and this number is only growing.

Security Vulnerabilities: Email platforms can be vulnerable to hacking and phishing attacks, putting your sensitive information at risk. Despite efforts to enhance security measures, cybercriminals can still exploit vulnerabilities to gain access to your inbox. Simply put when your email provider can read all of your emails there are multiple avenues for your data to be stolen. It doesn't matter if the front door is locked if the back door is open.

Government Access: In addition to the above, issues and less rarely discussed issue is that certain government agencies can and do regularly request access to email accounts from large providers, since your provider can see your email and the private information contained in your inbox, they can be compelled to fork this information over. The largest tech companies in the U.S. have all complied with these requests and can only disclose the number of requests and number of accounts effected by each request six months after the request was complied with.

How to Ensure Privacy in Your Inbox:

Use Encrypted Email Services: Opt for email services that offer end-to-end encryption, such as ProtonMail or Tutanota. Encrypted emails ensure that only the sender and recipient can access the contents, providing an additional layer of privacy. Keep in mind just because these providers cannot read your inbox does not mean they cannot hand over some information about you or your account when compelled legally to do so. Even Swiss privacy laws which proton falls under can compel them to disclose things like the recovery email address if it exists. So while these other services still have some shortcomings they do significantly limit privacy concerns.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication: Enhance the security of your email account by enabling two-factor authentication. This extra layer of protection requires a verification code in addition to your password, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

Be Mindful of Email Content: Avoid sharing sensitive information, such as financial details or personal data, via email whenever possible. If necessary, consider encrypting sensitive attachments or use secure file-sharing platforms such as ProtonDrive keep in mind that anything shared with someone else can live in their inbox or even archived/trash folder for month or years.

Regularly Update Passwords: Periodically update your email password and ensure it is strong and unique. Using a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters can help prevent unauthorized access to your inbox. I know this takes a bit of work so to help keep on top of it, you should have a program that actively monitors your information for leaks on the dark web, this way you can change your passwords and information reactively in response to any known leaks.

While complete privacy in your email inbox may be elusive, there are steps you can take to safeguard your information. By being proactive in your approach to email security and adopting best practices, you can reduce the risk of privacy breaches and protect your sensitive data.