Own your mail

Most people use email addresses under domain names owned by their mail hosting provider, e.g. gmail.com or hotmail.com. This makes it very easy for providers to revoke access to personal mail accounts. For one thing, all the archived mail will be inaccessible if the user has not taken care to make an independent backup. More importantly, the user can be denied access to all future incoming mail. At any point such a provider has the capacity to intercept messages, impersonate the user etc.

This is no way to manage such important personal tools as ones email addresses!

Fortunately, it is easy to solve the problem:

  1. Register your own domain name and use it for your personal mail account. Most email providers (e.g. Google) will provide this as a free add-on service, i.e. you can continue to use the Gmail web interface or whatever. Now, if Google suspends your account, you can simply point your domain to another provider and immediately start recieving your mail through them.
  2. Have backups of your mail history. The easiest way to achieve this is probably to set a normal desktop mail client to store all messages locally. There are also several tools for exporting mail data from e.g. Gmail. Now, if Google shuts your mail down, not only can you continue to use the same email address, you will also have access to  your mail archive.
  3. Use cryptography to sign and encrypt messages as often as possible. Encryption takes away the ability of the mail provider to read the contents of messages sent through and stored on their servers. Signing removes the ability of external parties to impersonate you after taking control of your mail account. (This assumes, of course, that your private key remains private.)