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
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.
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.
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