List of popular anonymous email solutions (Part 3) >>
Disposable Email Addresses (DEAs)
To overcome the tedious job of managing multiple accounts, you may use disposable email accounts that are created within seconds just as you need them. If a website requires follow-up confirmation, you are able to follow their instructions but after that, there is usually no need ever to re-visit this account.
Disposable email addresses promise to completely solve the unsolicited mail problem, dont they? Well, these solutions do work, but have some serious drawbacks. First of all, the process generating a disposable email account requires some additional manual steps, at least visiting a website and cutting and pasting the new address. Secondly, since disposable email services usually dont bother with authentication, anyone may read all emails that you receive under this identity, which is a serious security problem, especially since confirmation or password recovery emails contain user IDs and passwords. Thirdly, some large companies have learnt this trick too and reject all email accounts from the associated internet domains But most important is the fact that by using this method of spam avoidance, you effectively opt out of receiving any further mail from the addressee, so you are unreachable even for emails that you would otherwise love to receive: positive feedback to web log postings, honest business proposals, lost password recovery emails and the like. In effect, you cut yourself off from all communication just because you hate to deal with unwanted emails. If this is what you really want, go ahead and do it this way.
Probably the most clever solution is to use email forwarding services, where you also create multiple identities, but all emails are forwarded to your real private email address. This way you will never miss a single reply mail, but if you notice unwanted emails, simply delete the associated account and the annoyance stops. Most email forwarders let you add comments to each identity, allowing you to track exactly who sold this address in the first place in case the address gets abused.
With some forwarders, generation of a new identity is done simply by adding random characters to your forwarding email address, so you dont even need to visit a web page to create a new address. These addresses are called tagged email addresses. To give you an example, if your account name is jim, any email of the form email@example.com will be silently forwarded to your inbox. Let´s say you need an email address to be given to a site named nastysite.com. Simply add this site´s name (or any other shorthand text) in front of the @ character, forming the address firstname.lastname@example.org. If emails directed to this address start flowing into your mailbox from other parties, this is undeniable proof that nastysite.com did what their name suggested.
Email forwarding with tagged email addresses completely avoids all the drawbacks of the disposable email technique but at the expense of the potential pitfall that you must be extremely careful with reply mails because all replies contain your real email address. Some services take care of this problem by replacing the original addressee with their own email handler and by removing all instances of real addresses from within replied emails but this cannot be trusted upon blindly. Beware that automatic server messages, like vacation reply notifications and mailbox quota errors may also reveal your real email address without your knowledge!
So far, we have been talking only about hiding the email address itself, not about all the other information that has been entered during registration and is contained within confirmation mails. Most importantly, if your mail system is setup to automatically add a signature stating your real identity, like a vCard, then all your efforts are foiled as well
If all this sounds too complicated, take an hour or two, try out some of the fascinating free email services on the following page, and see if any of them fits your needs. As you learn how they work, sit back and think about what you really want to achieve. Does the amount of spam you receive really justify the planned effort on your side? Can your present technique of spam handling be improved or simplified? If you cant find a solution, there is at least hope that increasing legislation against unsolicited email will eventually diminish the problem in the future. In some countries anti-spam legislation has already become so ridiculously rigorous that a freelancer in effect risks severe financial sanctions if he dares to offer his services to a potential customer in his vicinity via a single email but this is another story.
Part 3: Popular anonymous email solutions >>