Setting up an email account has never been easier. A wide range of providers offer free accounts which can be activated in a matter of seconds.
It’s not just an email address and an inbox that you get either, organisational tools such as calendars, weather apps and notepads are all part of the deal too. In Google’s case, the activation of an email address essentially provides users with a personal assistant.
Free email sounds great in theory, but in reality, nothing comes for free and users should start asking what exactly they are giving large corporations in exchange for unlimited storage and 25MB attachments.
Picking the right email account
When selecting an email service it is worth comparing features such as data storage and attachment size. To assist you with this we have compiled the infographic below.
In the ever changing world of data protection, it is also important to research which email providers take security and privacy seriously. The infographic highlights which services offer TLS and SSL encryption to users.
© S&S Media
Security should be a top priority when choosing an email provider. While a lot of email users would not object to companies using data pertaining to location, age or gender, alarm bells often start to sound when users hear whisperings of employees having access to personal emails and the automated scanning of emails.
„Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.” – Eric Schmidt, Google Chairman.
Over the last few years Google has received criticism for Gmail’s privacy and security policy. Following a court filing last May, the Guardian reported that “People sending email to any of Google’s 425 million Gmail users have no „reasonable expectation“ that their communications are confidential”.
Representatives from the Consumer Watchdog said „People should take them (Google) at their word; if you care about your email correspondents‘ privacy, don’t use Gmail.“
In June 2014 Google released a transparency report. This was possibly an attempt to revamp their image after receiving negative press. The report alerted attention to the fact that by sending an unencrypted message, users may as well be sending a postcard in the mail that everyone can read.
The internet giant called on other providers to enable TLS encryption and listed those that currently have no security function. TLS encryption is only effective if both email services enable the security feature.
In response to Google’s report, companies such as Apple announced security changes would be coming into effect. Soon, iCloud will also offer TLS encryption to external providers, not between just mac to mac accounts.
“Would you prefer someone else? Is there a government that you would prefer to be in charge of this?“ asked Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt.
For Russians, this is becoming the a reality. As the BBC reported, new laws that come into effect today, (1st of August 2014), state that Russian Bloggers with over 3,000 hits per day will have to report to the mass media agency Roskomnadzor. Internet companies will also be required to provide information to the government. It will be interesting to see how this affects business for Russian browsers and email services such as Yandex, the largest search engine in Russia, with a dominance over 60% of the search engine and email market.
Positive responses to security issues
Advanced email security features have now become a key bargaining point for any email provider clambering to get new clients and keep old ones.
German email services have teamed up to offer secure, free email accounts in a programme called Email Made in Germany. Services web.de, GMX and T-Online responded to issues raised by Snowden revelations to offer a high quality service with security and data protection at the forefront of their campaign.
Another attempt to provide secure emails comes from Virtru, a service which works with your current email account to send encrypted emails with the flick of a switch. Virtru can also prevent emails being forwarded without your consent.
While it is important to find an email service that suits your needs, it is equally important to consider what these services are gaining from your information and why they want it. Is 25 MB worth of attachments really worth access to your emails? The answer will differ from user to user but what remains consistent is the call for caution when sending sensitive or personal data by unencrypted email.