Taking back your email

The last year has been crazy when it comes to discussion around online privacy and government monitoring. It doesn’t end there either. The discussion that has been ignited also raises questions about the various online services we use and the data we entrust in companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple. Savvy Internet users are becoming more aware about the personal information they post online for fear of who can see that information, and what the companies do with that information (i.e. who it’s sold to).

In most cases it’s easy to avoid a particular service, or find an alternative. One of the more overlooked services though is our are email service. It’s one of the most fundamental services on the internet. Everyone who uses the Internet has (at least) one. Can we trust who sees our email, what data is mined from our accounts, and what happens to it?

What to do?

So ask yourself this; Do you honestly trust all the data in your email accounts is not misused by Google in your GMail account or Microsoft in your Hotmail/Outlook account? At the end of the day, you’re a product to the likes of Google. It’s common knowledge that they have software on their servers to read your email in order to sell you targeted online adverts.

Are you happy to accept that?

There’s an alternative

In shopping round for GMail alternatives, I came across a couple of options that claim to take your privacy seriously. Most of them involve paying for the service. I’m happy to do this in the knowledge that I’m getting what I want and the cost is not crazy. But with these services, we are still at the mercy of some other corporation who tells us they have our best interests at heart, but *may* be stringing us along.

So what’s the alternative that puts you in control? Hosting your own service.

Now, hosting your own email server or deciding to “roll your own” as it is often referred to isn’t as difficult as it used to be.

The self-serve options

There are a number of options that I came across.

  • Mail-in-a-box – This touts itself as a “one-click” install package that installs a stack of open source software that is commonly used on mail servers and then configures it all for you.
  • iRedMail – A few more clicks, but this works in the same way as Mail-in-a-box.
  • Modoboa – This one looked a little more complex to install and configure but I liked the look of the webmail portal and looked like it had a few more features.

I decided to go with Mail-in-a-box, and it was as easy as is claimed to set up, and am really happy with the result. I’m hosting with Digital Ocean¬†which I find very reliable with great speeds and good prices. If you use the referral link above, you’ll also get $10 in account credit which equates to 2 months of free hosting.

Verdict

So it turns out due to a handful of new scripts that have recently become available, it has become very easy and cost effective to run your own mail server and really take control of your email. Will this stop the NSA or your country’s spy service from accessing your emails? Truthfully, probably not. But will it put you control of your own data and avoid it being sold to third parties or used to display targeted adverts? Yes.

 

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