Email is one of the biggest security issues around today's internet. After all, this is something that has been around for a relatively long time and emails are needed on almost every website you sign up to. So, as we know, an email is a pretty easy point of failure and can give away a lot of information about an individual.
Sadly, many people use Google's Gmail largely because of convenience and familiarity. Not only is it convenient, but you have it already installed when you own an Android device. But this probably means that you are giving up all your emails to Google, who scan them to determine what ads you should see, sell your data to third parties and lock you in to the data crawler which ends up knowing more about you than your mother. Hell, we could even call Google 'Mother' anyway, couldn't we, like during the Cold War and 'Mother Russia'...
However, there is another way because not everyone does it like that ;) I myself have been ‘Google-free’ for a long time already.
First things first, find a good email provider, among the better ones are the following:
Hosted in Geneva, Switzerland and gives you 500 MB on a free plan (as you can see, you don't need to be a 'Visionary' or go for a paid solution to have free and private email!).
There are some limitations such as there not being a bridge to let you use IMAP and SMTP on desktop without a special bridge software in between your email client and, well, Protonmail (which is only available for paid users). You can then use Thunderbird etc.. However, email is necessary, but can easily be checked via the Protonmail app on Android and iOS and the browser on your desktop. So 500 MB should be enough!
The good news here is that if you want a paid account, you can use Bitcoin to pay for it! Protonmail also offers a .onion address if you want to be even more private and use Tor. Be careful though, if you sign up using Tor, Protonmail will ask you for a telephone number to verify you are "safe"! In my opinion, this is a horrible practice for a privacy orientated provider.
Protonmail has a solution for hosting your own domain on the paid plans they are offering. But don’t do that and let me give you a better solution below…well, way below as there are more email service providers to go through first.
Note: Protonmail offers Free & Paid accounts.
Hosted in Hanover, Germany. 1GB storage is provided in the free plan. Just as with Protonmail, they do not offer IMAP/SMTP but unlike Proton they have no bridge to use with 3rd party email clients.
However, there is an F-Droid version which doesn't rely on Google or warn you that they need Google push in order to work as intended. Therefore, this is an excellent solution, especially when combined with the encrypted Calendar option they are offering.
Desktop and iOS versions are also available, as well as a Web version. They offer custom domains in the paid version. Sadly, no Bitcoin payment option yet, but they keep mentioning it and accept it for donations. So hopefully we'll see Bitcoin acceptance soon.
Something cool to mention about Tutanota is the E2EE Business Secure Connect contact form they are offering, this is 240 euros a year, however.
Note: Tutanota offers Free & Paid accounts.
Mailbox.org is hosted in Berlin, Germany and has no free service (but a 30 day free trial), you can use it on your own domain as well. I mention Mailbox.org as it would also be the best fitting solution if you are using Delta Chat as your email/chat solution.
Mailbox.org no longer has a Bitcoin payment option anymore as BitPay, which they used as a gateway, suspended its operation in Germany. Mailbox.org offers a
.onion service for SMTP/IMAP which is pretty cool, but not for their own website. Mailbox.org would have been my first pick if they accepted Bitcoin as they have a full package including calendar, office etc. and all that for just 12 euros a year.
30 days free trial then EUR €12/year
Mailvelope PGP supported
Another one hosted in Germany that will give you a 14 days trial and does not offer to host your own emails. Again, no Bitcoin acceptance here either. Posteo also doesn't offer a .onion solution. I have many friends who recommend Posteo highly but I need to admit I have never given it a shot myself. However, based on what I know about them, they seem like a pretty good solution.
Note: Posteo offers Free & Paid accounts.
Send encrypted emails to anyone. If your recipient doesn’t use encryption, they can receive and reply to your encrypted emails with a password you set up for them.
Disroot is a platform providing online services based on principles of freedom, privacy, federation and decentralization.
No tracking, no ads, no profiling, no data mining!
Now we have all that out of the way we get to the next step! The one that explains why I said "get a free email" which narrows it down to either Protonmail or Tutanota (which with 1GB storage included edges it as the better offer).
Skiff Mail is end-to-end encrypted email that protects your inbox and gives you the power to communicate freely.
Your Skiff Mail account gives you access to the first-ever end-to-end encrypted productivity suite. Jump from docs to email, to remote collaboration with your team. And never compromise your privacy in the process.
When signing up for your email remember not to divulge your name in the email field or in the sign-up, but use something that is hard to guess or even something generated, something that in no way connects you at all to that email address.
Jump over to AnonAddy or SimpleLogin, both offer self or on-premise hosted email solutions, free or paid. And here it gets interesting, in the paid version you can use your own domain and generate or select emails (with your name or service) to be forwarded to your newly created email.
The same goes for the self-hosted and truly free solution you can install on your own server. Self-hosted or hosted with the open-source solution will also include encryption via PGP. So you can get emails, encrypted and forwarded to your new email with an owned domain or the endings these two services are offering.
The best part here is that both are fully open-source and can be hosted by yourself. If you would like it hosted on their servers you can still have unlimited forwarders for free, alternatively, do it like me (and many others) and help fund the development, I chose the $3 per month plan so not expensive. There are also free and a $1 per month plan mentioned on AnonAddy and where you can have all your domains hosted on their servers and then just have emails forwarded to Protonmail or Tutanota or any other service.
They also accept Bitcoin so I couldn’t be happier. Furthermore, you can disable and block forwarded emails, you can send emails with your domains and you can even send them from Tutanota or Protonmail. Also, there is a browser add-on which can generate new emails for any website you sign up with. You are in control, and everything can and will be encrypted and forwarded that way to your email.
And if you are a Tor user, there is
a .onion address to access AnonAddy as well.
This makes it the perfect solution when it comes to privacy online. Having basically unlimited emails which all come to one mailbox! With encryption and the fact that the 'other end service' never actually ever has your real email address on file, keeping it free as well as without trackers and spam.
If you are up to having your own hosted email and do not want to use any of the free or paid solutions we've just covered, have a look at Mail-in-a-Box which has an easy to do self set up and where you control the open-source software on your own servers.
Similar to Mail-in-a-Box is Mailcow which is a bit more advanced so maybe a little more of a pain to set up.
For a regular user I strongly recommend AnonAddy which also has a super cool and fast responding developer along with Tutanota or Protonmail or maybe even Disroot (which has a 1GB account for free) to receive all your emails.
If you are hip and want to have a more 'messenger like' experience you can always have a look at Delta Chat (see above) but that leaves you with no Tutanota or Protonmail solution as neither offer SMTP/IMAP support.
FYI - Update: we have been advised about Skiff Mail which appears to be a very interesting end-to-end encrypted email project (and a whole lot more) that protects your inbox and gives you the power to communicate freely. We will review Skiff shortly and have more details available for you soon.
Stay safe and do some Identity Preservation because always remember you have nothing to share!