Ask LH: What Gmail Alternatives Can I Explore?

Dear Lifehacker, With current online privacy concerns, I'm worried about continuing to use Gmail. What are the risks in continuing to give Google so much information about me? And are there any alternatives (aside from not using email at all)? Thanks, Private Life

Photo: Google

Dear PL,

First things first: email does not begin and end with Gmail -- it's actually a relatively young player, having only been released to the general public seven years ago.

There are a plenty of other public providers that offer equally feature-reach email clients. In addition to the usual suspects like Outlook and Yahoo, there are plenty of alternatives floating around -- there's a good chance your ISP offers its own mail service, for example. For peace of mind, you could also set up a personal email address on your own domain. You can read the benefits of setting up your own domain name here.

If that's too much effort, there are plenty of privacy-centric freemail services available too. One of the better options we've come across is Lavabit, which is specifically designed to log the least amount of data possible while still remaining functional.

According to its Privacy Policy, Lavabit doesn't store your IP address, outgoing messages are only stored on the server for about seven days and every email you send is encrypted in such a way that even the administrators can't access it.

You can read an overview of Google's privacy rules and their assorted implications here. As you'd expect, the main privacy issues centre around targeted advertising, which is how the company makes a lot of its money. The downside is that you need to assume that Google is actively tracking and categorising absolutely everything you do with its tools.

That said, if you're an Android user, the tie-in to Gmail may make it more appealing -- it's a choice each person needs to make for themselves. It's also possible to turn off some of Gmail's more intrusive activities (for example, you can stop Google from serving you "tailored" ads by opting out of the service via Gmail's ad settings).

If you're truly concerned about your privacy, check out these Top 10 Simple Privacy Tricks Everyone Should Use. As always, if any readers have alternative suggestions of their own, let PL know in the comments section below.

See also: The Best Browser Extensions That Protect Your Privacy Going Google-Free: The Best Alternatives To Google Services On The Web

Cheers Lifehacker

Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact tab on the right.


    Step 1. Google "free email"
    Step 2. Open any of the 1231294914235236151169 results.
    Step 3. Register.
    Step 4. Profit?

    Alternatively I have made this extremely condescending link for your viewing pleasure, which will leave which provider you use entirely at the whim of the 'im feeling lucky' button..

      actually no need for the big ego. it's a good question with regrads to specific security issues. if you're one of those people who think that you have nothing to fear because you have nothing to hide, then this half assed answer from lh was probably good enough for you. there are great concerns regarding privacy these days and people need answers as to which services are private but hands over user private data on request of authorities anyway (hush) and which services turned it into business (google) charging $25 for every request. people need to know about servers outside of the us and services with solid privacy policy.

    You should remember that with email (any communications, really), there are two parties involved. Your email can be as secure as you like, but if the person you are emailing isn't similarly paranoid, then your messages are being read. Encryption might help you to some extent (for this you'd better forget webmail and drop into a desktop mail client), but again relies on the other party knowing what the hell they're doing. Which they probably don't, so it all gets too hard pretty quickly. I'd recommend assuming that your emails are being read, no matter who the provider is, and keeping private matters offline.

      A minimum of four parties are involved. Sender, Sender's Mail Provider, Recipient's Mail Provider, and Recipient. Plus any ISP or Server the mail passes through on it's way... either way, your assumption that your email is being read is a good one, and it extends beyond email - facebook, twitter, msn, skype, all the means we use to communicate, even sms/text can be read by the people providing the service.

    This kind of paranoia is insane. Google already has so much information about you, trying to escape now is foolish and pointless.

    I think there are just three options:, and my favourite The free accounts of Lavabit doesn't have any protection, but if you pay 8 USD yearly you obtain the best option to calm your paranoia (webmail is simple, but Thunderbird is a very good client anyway). MyKolab is a promising opensource alternative in development (free for now but it will cost). I really prefer Mr. Mail: is as powerful as gmail, runs on Open Source and is secure enough.

    Last edited 19/07/13 1:09 pm

    Gmail has ads?
    I've had my gmail come through on my desktop email client for years now, and haven't seen a single one. It's really not hard to set up.

    The cheapest (and best) I found is at $1.95 per month for 25GB.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now