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Sunday, November 4th, 2012, 2:18 pm

Privacy in E-mail Nearly Impossible

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Almost one decade ago I shifted all of my E-mail to a domain that I control. Well, to be accurate, my host and I control it, and that host is based in Ireland/UK. But over time it became apparent that this was usually useless for privacy. If the recipient uses an E-mail address in one of the big providers of ‘free’ E-mail services (e.g. Yahoo, Google, Microsoft), then my messages (incoming, outgoing) will be visible to corporations and governments whose business should not be other people’s personal lives. So among those who were close to me I was pushing to move to a private domain as well, often the same as mine. This goes back to around 2004. Alas, this wasn’t enough. People routinely use SMTP servers provided by their ISP (‘free’ traffic, free to engage in surveillance), and some use Web-based clients that spying-happy browsers are accessing. Those browsers got worse in that regard over time. Ubuntu now uses search to turn users into products. Besides all of this, the ISP has access to packets, and here in the UK we have Phorm, which helps ISPs do DPI (deep packet inspection) under the guise of “marketing” surveillance.

The bottom line is, encryption for E-mail is needed, but the problem is that few mail clients actually support PGP. Some make it cumbersome to use. Perhaps it’s fair to say that privacy in E-mail is almost an impossibility in practice (even among two willing parries). I no longer use E-mail all that much. face-to-face conversations remain one of the most private options for those who value privacy.

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