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Google changes its privacy policy: Another reminder to use offshore email

February 2, 2012
Undisclosed location

If you’re like almost every single Internet user on the planet, you probably use Google for something. Maybe Gmail, maybe Google search, maybe Google Docs, maybe Google Voice… or maybe all of the above.

Google recently began circulating a new privacy policy that will take place effective March 1, 2012.  With so many services ranging from a new social network to an online office platform, Google has consolidated all of its privacy policies into one. And it’s a good reminder of what’s at stake.

Anytime you perform a Google search, for example, it’s logged. Your computer’s IP address and cookie (unique identifiers that can essentially pinpoint you and your location) are also included, so your computer’s entire search history is archived.

When you receive an email through Gmail, or a voicemail on the Google Voice service, it’s archived on their servers. Even if you delete the messages, there’s still a copy on Google’s servers. The marginal cost of digital storage is so ridiculously cheap that they have little reason to delete this data.

Then, of course, there are all the government requests for user data. In the first half of 2011, the US government requested information on over 11,000 Google accounts. Google complied with a full 93% of those requests.  Your account might have been one of them, and you would never know.

It’s not just Google either. Between Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL, the four companies power the email accounts of over 1 billion people. And all of them are in bed with the US government.

In a way, they have to be. They’re all US companies– headquartered in the US and subject to US law. When the government comes looking for information, or some judge decrees that a user’s emails be confiscated as evidence, they have to comply.

Big Brother compliance also goes far beyond email. Skype, the popular instant message and VOIP software that was once thought to be private and secure, is now owned by Microsoft… meaning that Skype chats are now also subject to courts and police agencies.

So what to do? First, and most importantly, be mindful about what you put in an email or online chat platform. The best rule of thumb is that sending an unsecure email is like shouting the contents across the street.

Further, consider using an offshore email provider that can securely host your account abroad. There are a number of them available, services like:

https://secure.runbox.com/ (Norway)

http://www.SwissMail.org/ (Switzerland)

http://www.NeoMailbox.com/ (Switzerland)

If you have your own custom domain email address (for example, admin@sovereignman.com), you can keep your existing email address and simply change the mail servers. I’ve asked my IT staff to put together a short guide showing exactly how to do this, and I’ll send it out to you soon.

Our goal is simple: To help you achieve personal liberty and financial prosperity no matter what happens.

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About the author: Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, permanent traveler, free man, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter and crash course is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://www.mikekey.com/ Mike Key

    Any recommendations for professionals who also need VPS hosting that is not located in the United States?

  • Steven

    Another option for those who love the easy to use but notoriously insecure, Dropbox, service is…. http://wuala.com/

    It’s almost as easy for mac users.  It just doesn’t run “always” you have to start their program before your dropbox appears in your files.

    There are some others I haven’t used that also offer more secure cloud storage.

  • Atlas1

    I have been a SwissMail user for over a year and have been perfectly pleased with their service. I am also now a customer of one of the new kids on the privacy block, JumpMail. I cannot speak highly enough about JumpMail from JumpShipServices.co

    JumpMail was designed from the ground up to be a multi-flagged service. Their domain is registered in one jurisdiction, their website is hosted in another, their servers are located in another, and their security certificates are issued in another.

    These guys are the real deal.

    I have no ties to either of these companies other than being a very satisfied customer of both. I maintain two distinct email address from these providers, one for email newsletter sign-ups and memberships, and the other for personal correspondence.

    One of the single best things you can do for your personal privacy is to move your email offshore, and for as cheap as these services are, there’s no reason in the world not to do it. I think for my two different accounts I pay about $200/yr for everything.

    Make the jump!


    • Juliet

      I was told that the gov would especially be checking off shore emails. How do you pay for a off shore email service if your personal information is being tracked?

  • Paul

    Is a Switzerland-based company really a good idea considering the bank account information handover? Should an offshore email account be paid for from an offshore bank account?

    • Guy

      Great questions…hope someone can answer.

  • Guest

    Screw Google, and the horse they rode in on. Use Startpage — https://startpage.com/ — for searching, and ixquick to access results via proxy.

    Their policy is:

    “When you search with Startpage, we remove all identifying information
    from your query and submit it anonymously to Google ourselves. We get
    the results and return them to you in total privacy.

    “Your IP
    address is never recorded, your visit is not logged, and no tracking
    cookies are placed on your browser. When it comes to protecting your
    privacy, Startpage runs the tightest ship on the Internet. Our
    outstanding privacy policy and thoughtful engineering give you great
    search results in total anonymity.”

    • Guy

      I’ve been using Startpage for a while now, but as a non-technical user, I wonder how effective their privacy measures really are.  By the way, can you explain how to use “ixquick to access results via proxy.”?  Thank you.

  • Alex Nordach

    Any suggestions for an alternate to Skype?

  • doesNotMatter

    We’re freaking doomed. Better live everyday like it’s our last. Never know where we’ll end up.

  • Mot

    I always figured Google was going to rat people out.  You only have to harken back to the days when they used to drone on with their mantra of “do no harm”… As if.  It was so smarmy and full of self congratulatory BS I knew it had to be a lie.  Guess I was right.  If privacy means anything then you have to do what you can.  Just remember this… That if ANY communication is passing through USA servers then it’ll be hoovered up to be analyzed.  So for anyone living within the USSA you have more hoops to jump through than someone living and working outside of this country.  DuckDuckGo is another good search engine alternative that doesn’t harvest everything you do.  I know it all comes as a shock (NOT) but until there is a serious correction in attitudes this is only the beginning.

  • Anonymous

    Hi friends, thanks for the great ideas here.  However I read closely the neomailbox terms and aup.  Red flags: 1) They appear to be based in St Louis MO USA (TOS 10.4), and 2) they are apparently interested in enforcing US state and federal law (TOS 10.3).  So I can’t see choosing this service as an ‘offshore’ or in the spirit of this article.

    • Gene

      What do you think the fair value would be of a true private and secure email provider? I have the skills to do this, but as with many things, there may be less of a market for this than you’d think there should be. If I did such a service I would have a few requirements of users: all inbound mail should be either encrypted or encoded, no monthly memberships (one year minimum) , and use of service for online fraud against consumers will have service revoked with no refunds. In return, my service would keep no logs, store no mail (when it’s deleted by the user, it’s gone). It would be engineered in such as way that even if government/law enforcement were to seize the hardware and/or threaten the system owner, no data would be revealed. the issue of course is that this may not be a viable business model.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-Robertson/100002930340944 Bob Robertson

    The more mail with which you use GnuPG, the less likely they will notice one with actual information.


  • b1313536

    Well that was fun while it lasted, but looks like neomailbox is a no go. Let’s see if runbox keeps any logs.


    We maintain logs of your email traffic for 7 days for performance
    analysis and abuse prevention. Your IP address is anonymized before any
    information is saved to the logs. Anonymous surfing logs are deleted
    every 10 minutes.


    The abuse of our mail servers or of the service for the purpose of
    sending unsolicited junk mail, or for any fraudulent or criminal
    activity, will invalidate all privacy guarantees for the account(s)

    • Bblaster

      runbox appears to be similar & can’t find privacy policy at Swiss.  I suspect none of these offer true privacy & would fold like a deck of cards as soon as Big Brother approached

      • Kim @ Runbox

        We have actually just “folded” once and that was after two court rulings and the police came to our offices three times. Normally US police or federal authorities will not even bother going after our customers since its a complicated process in our courts. We will never give any information out without a Norwegian court ruling. 

        I Norway we have strong privacy laws and our our business is overseen by the The Data Inspectorate (Datatilsynet). That might sound bad, but its actually a Government Agency that is set up to protect the privacy of users. We might not be perfect on security yet, but that is something we are working hard on. 

    • Jones Tom

      Why is neomailbox a no go? And do you have alternatives that you use yourself, or recommend?

      I get the feeling you know a lot about this stuff, and I’d like to chat w/you if possible… if only to exchange a few emails. Do you have an email address (dummy acct) or some way to get a hold of you, please?

      I’m mostly interested in anonymous domain hosting — avoiding namecheap/godaddy. Email is important too, as I want to get off Gmail ASAP. Do you, or anyone, know about registering a normal .com name offshore, without risking the domain getting yanked by some hooligan in Malaysia or wherever?


      Or, if you don’t wanna post it publicly, lemme know and I’ll post a dummy email acct for you to hit me up at.

  • Guy

    Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, says “all these concerns about privacy tend to be
    old people issues.” I’m 44 and I’m very concerned.  We’re making life very easy for crooks, both government and private, by filling out our own online dossiers.

  • http://www.michaellockyear.com michael lockyear

    How many of these offer SSL?  Without SSL your communications are easily intercepted. 

    Logs?  If your emails are so secretive that logs are a problem you should not use email! A provider that does no logging /monitoring will be overrun with spammers!

    As for multi-flagged operations…this may be great for the operators but does not mean enhanced security for the users.  (It probably means that the servers are not in the physical control of the operators…)

    You could of course run your own email server in the basement… whether or not that increases your security or decreases would depend on your expertise. 

  • http://www.xcopfly.com/ Xcopfly

    I have Runbox, it’s a great service and they give you Web hosting too.

  • Phil

    Simon. I run a little toolbar called Netcraft, and under site reports it states that neobox is based on the US. Are you sure this is a good recommendation?

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