Reclaiming Privacy – Moving out of Gmail

Privacy matter especially when your email provider can get to know more about you by reading your emails.

Of late with all the privacy discussions going on online, I decided that it was high time that Google (and other ‘Big’ corporates) knows less about me than they know now. Step 1 was to move out of Gmail, where every email I received was potentially scanned by Google to use in their other services, or target ads to me.

What could they possibly know?

If you make a list of things which someone can infer about you from just analysing emails you receive, the list can go quite long.

  • When I travelled, and my airline preferences, where I stayed – from my travel booking emails.
  • How much insurance and investments I have and whether I pay them on time.
  • Where I do my online shopping and what generally buy online.
  • My Utility, Phone and Mobile bills can be analysed to infer a lot of data.
  • How much I spend and save based on the bank statements I receive.
  • What kind of problem I have with various services based on complaints I send to these companies.
  • Who I’m communicating with and what about?

All they need to do is mine information about me from those little bits of emails which hit my Inbox. Companies pay top dollar for being able to target ads to highly defined demographics like this. This along with a host of other information I send to Google via my online searches, my location and other bits of information they can harvest from my Android phone means that Google knows me better than I know myself.

We all love free stuff, but when you are the Google’s product which they sell to the highest advertisement bidder, it comes at a cost of decreased privacy. I’m wary about One company which knows too much about me. I decided to move most of my stuff out of Gmail into a different email provider. I tried a few over the past few months and settled in for Proton Mail.

Proton Mail – Encrypted and I have the Key

One reason I chose Proton Mail is that they store emails encrypted on their servers, which means that once they receive emails, the received emails are stored on their servers fully encrypted and only I can access it.The downside is if I lose my password, even the folks at Proton Mail won’t be able to help me retrieve my stored emails. My mails are now as secure as it can get.

Proton Mail works on the browser and they provide mobile apps for Android and iOS. They follow a freemium version, which means you can use their free version as long as you want. Some of the additional features require a paid upgrade.

What do I miss after moving?

A lot of the convenience which Google provides with their various services is based on the information they read from your email. A few features I miss after the shift are:

  • Auto Calendar Event – If someone sends an event invite, it automatically gets added to your calendar.
  • Travel Details on Google Now – Google used to go through my emails for flight and hotel bookings and used to surface this information at the right times on my phone using Google Now. The one which is especially useful is flight delay notifications.
  • Bill Reminders¬† – Another feature I miss are Google’s bill reminders with information extracted from emails.

While these were useful features, I prefer my privacy over convenience.

What’s Next?

So now Google knows a little less about me, but that’s not the end of the information gathering which Google does. My Android phone does transmit a whole lot of information to Google and others. The target for the next week or two will be tune the Android settings to see how to improve privacy without having to compromise on the “smart” on the phone.

If you have any tips on how to do that, do leave a comment below.

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