27 December 2010
Ditch Gmail. If you can. (You can.) There exist, believe it or not, a bunch of email providers out there. And contrary to what many people think, a desktop email client like Outlook or Thunderbird (and there’re others, too) are NOT difficult to set up and maintain.
I use Lavabit as my main email address. I’ll admit, I still use Gmail, particularly for mobile devices, but I make damn sure to reserve it for less important stuff, or for when some commercial web site requires me (why do they always do that, when the service they render has no need for your address???) to regurgitate my email address — that sort of thing.
Lavabit’s home page states it was incorporated in the state of Texas “during the summer of 2004 as Nerdshack LLC by a dedicated group of programmers.” And that “Lavabit was founded as a direct reaction to the larger free e-mail services available. We felt it was possible to create an e-mail service that was fast, reliable, feature rich and didn’t achieve profitability by prostituting its user base to marketers.”
PROSTITUTING – their words – ITS USER BASE TO MARKETERS. Exactly!
They mean GMAIL! An ALTERNATIVE to. (And, to be fair, Yahoo! and an assortment of other profiteers who care nothing about user privacy.)
And this: “Lavabit was created to offer Internet users a better choice for reliable, fast, affordable e-mail service that never sacrifices privacy for profits.”
That is indeed what one would want. But it does seems to good to be true…maybe not, however, because Lavabit claims no more than 60,000 registered email addresses and claim not to be taking any more registrations due to hardware constraints because of greater than expected demand.
I use Lavabit as my primary email provider because it advertised itself- well it didn’t really advertise itself at all — it was, and still is (sorta) underground, purporting to handle only 60,000 addresses. I happened upon it because I was looking for an alternative to our ubiquitous GMAIL.
Google appears to be fast taking over the Web, much like Microsoft was taking over and ultimately monopolizing operating systems and pre-installed software during the Clinton-era.
Google’s secret agreements with our own and foreign governments to monitor and, in China’s case to censor, web activity, is a warning sign as to what is meant by “prostituting” users’ data – users who store very private and valuable information with such Web giants as Google. You may have noticed that a Search engine history, or simply browser history is exceedingly revealing information as concerns individual privacy.
Now comes Google Buzz (a rather lazy attempt at inching in on the social networking realm (watch out Facebook?) Not so much. With Buzz, for Gmail users basically Google decided it was okay to “out” all of your Gmail email contacts and then turn around and say, “hey look, this is Facebook!” Cheap and reckless.
Again, email, as opposed to “snail-mail” has become today’s de facto “mail”. And when you’ve cornered the market and you allow, or even entice, users to store VERY private and potentially VERY valuable information on your servers — and you do this as a private, incorporated entity — then you are obligated to protect that information as would a Bank or Credit Union. We know that the Internet is still in its infancy and there is a lack of regulation in this area, but Buzz displays glaringly the need for such regulation. Or failing that, for suitable consumer ALTERNATIVES.
“Buzz” went nowhere because enough people realized how idiotic and what a despicable perversion it was. But the Buzz thing, along with an apparent hack into my own Gmail account, forced me to look elsewhere.
I wanted to set up a desktop email client so I’d no longer need to store email data on someone else’s servers. Solution: Mozilla Thunderbird.
Then, I searched for compatible email providers. Lavabit showed as highly recommended and its home page and blurbs showed promise. I had an iPod Touch at the time, so the fact that Lavabit also stores your email on their own servers was a plus. (To my knowledge there exists no mobile version of Thunderbird)
I thought, “It’ll be ok if I try to use Thunderbird <i>most</i> of the time. (I don’t know what kind of logic that is).
So I set up Lavabit (using IMAP) for Mozilla Thunderbird. All well and good; fine and dandy.
Then I got Clear (formerly Clearwire) as my ISP. Clear offers you two email accounts for free, so I created one and set it up with my desktop email, Thunderbird.
1. The servers routing my email to Clear consisted of “imap.googlemail.com” – both “incoming” and “outgoing”.
2. Whilst accessing my Clear email address (email@example.com) through the Clear account page, I was led to a login page that looked earily familiar. When I logged in, it was then easy to see that Clear had just directed me to Gmail – with a different color scheme! Brilliant! Brilliant as a cost-saving measure, that is. But pretty disappointing considering I’m paying $45/month for Clear. I’m paying for the “Clear” handle, I suppose. But everything else is identical to Gmail. Sure enough, the clincher came when I setup IMAP incoming and outgoing servers, and was given – again – “….googlemail.com”
Then came problems with Thunderbird and my existing Lavabit email that I peruse and store in local folders w/ Thunderbird. After I’d set up the Clear email address w/ Thunderbird, the Clear set up decided it would become my default incoming/outgoing server (and that meant “…googlemail.com”
It took uninstalling and reinstalling Thunderbird to get back to my old settings, which were “imap.lavabit.com”.
So I ditched my new Clear email address.
Back to Lavabit, I was sending an email today and glanced at Safari’s address bar. I noticed one lone address with the progress bar sliding rightward – “https://mail.google.com.”
So it would appear that Clear has, à la Google and Gmail, prostituted my once precious Lavabit email address to Google? I don’t know who to blaim but I have my suspicions. Point is, whatever the reasons, Google has their tentacles into A LOT of shit. So if you care about your privacy and you care about identity theft, viruses, hacking, etc. Boycott that company. Or maybe a larger lesson – don’t sacrifice yourself to ONE corporation when it comes to the Web. Mix it up. Use Facebook, but don’t use only Facebook for messaging, for instance.
I know, Youtube, Google Video, the Google search engine itself — all are Google, Inc. products — but we do have alternatives. You’ll find them. It’s a matter of listening for the quieter cues, kind of like digging in the very bottom or very top shelves or in boxes at the book store.
The World-Wide Web is still a very democratic place – amazingly so. So enjoy it while you can.
In Support of Net Diversity – Not Net “Neutrality”