Finding Privacy for Email – The New York Times

TECH TIP

Companies that offer free mail accounts typically do so in exchange for the use of your personal data, but you can find providers offering secure, private services.

Q. After reading recently updated privacy policies — are there any web-based mail providers out there that do not scan your mail, mine your data or stick ads on your messages? If I wanted to leave Yahoo for a more secure mail provider, how do I move my mail and address book?

A. Free email services are generally free because those companies make money by selling advertising based on the data you generate. That is the trade-off.

Using an encryption tool, such as OpenPGP, is an option for more secure mail, but another option is to use a web-based mail service that builds in privacy. Most secure mail providers charge a fee, but some have free accounts with limited features and reduced storage capacity.

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ProtonMail is one of the many web-based providers offering secure and private email services.CreditThe New York Times

Many of the more popular secure mail providers are based overseas and are subject to the privacy laws in their particular country of incorporation, so read up before signing up. Services include Countermail (Sweden), FastMail (Australia), Hushmail (Canada), ProtonMail (Switzerland), RunBox (Norway) and Tutanota (Germany).

Compared to several other countries or regions, the United States has looser legal restrictions about what companies can do with customer data. For example, the United States government repealed certain consumer privacy protection laws last year, making it easier for broadband internet providers to track and sell customer data without first getting permission from those being tracked.

As for moving your data to a new service, Yahoo Mail does not have an export function for the mail in your existing mailbox, but you might be able to download your messages to a third-party desktop mail program like Mozilla Thunderbird in order to save copies locally. Yahoo’s help site does have instructions for exporting your contacts list as a file that you can import elsewhere.


Personal Tech invites questions about computer-based technology to techtip@nytimes.com. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually.

J.D. Biersdorfer has been answering technology questions — in print, on the web, in audio and in video — since 1998. She also writes the Sunday Book Review’s “Applied Reading” column on ebooks and literary apps, among other things.@jdbiersdorfer




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