Email hosts

Who handles my mail?

I would like to be smarter about who does all that network transmission of my email.

  • google mail exists and is free, but that is about selling my personal data to faceless foreign corporations, so given that I have the privilege of enough income, I would prefer not to be a data point for their profiling algoritihms. Unfortunately my contacts insist on using it, so I am not convincingly depriving Google of my delicious data as such, but why not take a first step.
  • If I had time I could host your own encryption-happy mail server, but life is short and I am not THAT passionate.
  • Middle ground: I at least get email from someone who is not paying their costs by abusing my personal data.

As for that last one, here are some reasonably-reputable 3rd party email providers.

I favour options who in principle won’t give up my email without telling me because of legal protections. Privacy tools reviews some alternatives. That review is a little focussed on end-to-end encryption for mail which is cute but I am not convinced it is useful since email is inherently insecure. There are various complications when you try to plug these paranoiac secure mail apps into you classic insecure mail, or indeed into other secure mail systems, so why spend my precious data security labour on that? I am not quite so pure. Pragmatically, I would like to minimise data mining and maximise usefulness, but I am much more ready to compromise than the Privacy Tools folks, by voting with my wallet for relatively more friendly options.

  • posteo is a pro-privacy german email host that uses greenpower. They are charmingly committed to privacy. Major shortcoming: you cannot use custom domains, and so must have an address @posteo.something, which is not ideal for my purposes.
  • GANDI is a french DNS host. If you already host your domains with them it is convenient to host email as well. The service is full featured and obviously supports custom domains. It is missing one or two things that would be nice (catch-all addresses and CalDAV) but is perfectly functional AFAICS.
  • eclipso is another German provider, so once again in a relatively favourable jurisdiction. They have lots of features, suspiciously many features really, including, weird unique ones (email-fax gateway, email-physical mail gateway…). Custom domains are only available on the “business” plan at EUR6/month.
  • fastmail is easy to set up and simple. The main problem is that they are run out of Australia, whose respect for privacy and due process is on a downward slide. Since I am not trying to conduct illegal business by email, this is not a massive concern per se, but all else being equal, why jump aboard a sinking ship when there are similarly priced alternatives in better jurisdictions without such grim disregard for transparency and due process? There would need to be some serious compensating virtue.
  • On that note, Hey promise a radical redesign of the email experience and promise much fancy eye candy. Sadly they are in a terrible jurisdiction (USA) but maybe the value add is good. Is it good enough to justify keeping your email in the NSA browsing library? Not sure, did not try.
  • kolabnow is a Swiss provider of email and groupware services, with a reasonably favourable jurisdiction and good privacy support. I was using them for a long time, but no longer. I got locked out of my email for a crucial 3.5 days due to a gruelling UX fail on the Christmas holiday. I have switched mail providers now, to GANDI which is not as elevated but is cheaper. Their UX fails remain to be seen.

Here are some that in principle can’t give up your email because they never see your unencrypted data:

These are less convenient, but in certain worlds might be fun/useful tools to have. (Although is email truly what you want?)

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