That’s not to mention the fact that Google’s systems do still scan your Gmails (just not for ad targeting) so its AI can help generate “Smart Replies”—quick little text replies a user can send to someone who’s emailed them. These snippets are generated based on the content of the email you receive. Oh, and Gmail keeps track of items you buy online and keeps a history of them. Your purchase history is generated from the receipts online retailers email to your Gmail account.The thing is, Gmail isn’t alone. Most major free email providers, including Yahoo, scan user emails for ad targeting and data-gathering purposes. The major exception is Apple’s iCloud—as long as you pony up for an Apple device. The good news is that you have plenty of third-party, privacy-first email options.
ProtonMailOne of the best-known alternative email providers. ProtonMail debuted in 2014 after the Edward Snowden revelations. The company is based in Switzerland and prides itself on declaring that no one can read your emails—not even ProtonMail. This is because ProtonMail offers strong end-to-end encryption for email and even stores all messages and attachments in an encrypted format while they sit on the company’s servers.
One drawback of ProtonMail is that while emails are end-to-end encrypted, subject lines are not, so it would be possible for a hacker to theoretically gain access to your email subject lines, but not the message itself. Still, you get more privacy with ProtonMail than you do with Gmail. Anyone can sign up for a free account, but it’s limited to a relatively parsimonious 500 MB worth of emails. Paid plans start at $5 a month for 5 GB, and go up to $30 a month for a 20 GB plan.And yep, no one likes paying for an email account when the likes of Yahoo and Google offer them for free. (Gmail offers up to 15 GB of space for free, with the option to pay for more; Yahoo Mail gives you a startling 1 TB for free). But those accounts are only free because you pay for them with your privacy and (since they’re ad-supported) attention. ProtonMail’s business model, like many others in this article, relies on charging people for email access so it doesn’t need to make money from your data.