How many times a day do you give out your email address, inadvertently or voluntarily? How many lists do you think your email address appears on? Can you trust every vendor you register with? I know I would have a tough time answering these questions. Of course, I tend to be a rather private person with my personal information, including giving out my email address. The reality is though that in order to register and sign up for services online, you typically must provide an email address. For those that would rather not give out their real address, there are a few alternative solutions out there that will shield your real address, while giving you the ability to retrieve emails on demand.
One free service that can provide you with a disposable email address is called GuerillaMail. What the service does is allow you to generate a generic email address, and retrieve the emails for the address, all from right within your web browser. No registration is required, and you don’t need to give out any information. The catch however is that the information is publicly available, however all emails are deleted within 1 hour of reception. In order to counter this though, what GuerillaMail does is give you a random/hashed string of numbers and letters for an email address, making it difficult for a human to enter in the address and retrieve your emails.
Let’s break it down into how this works:
1) I visit GuerillaMail.com. I’m presented with a random email address, ie:
firstname.lastname@example.org and I have the choice to “Scramble Address” so it now becomes email@example.com
2) I can now use my newly hashed address to sign up for a random website that needs my email address. Let’s say I want to sign up for a Twitter account, but don’t want it tied back to my real email address. I can sign up for Twitter and provide them the firstname.lastname@example.org address.
3) I signed up for Twitter, but they need to send me an email to verify my account. I can come back to GuerillaMail.com and input my mailbox address above, which I’ve saved elsewhere. I can retrieve the message Twitter has sent me and verify my “fake” email account.
4) Existence of the Twitter email that was sent to my mailbox gets deleted within the hour. My anonymity and privacy are safe and sound! Yipee!
Of course, if a human or robot were to discover the existence of the account referenced above, they would have the ability to input the address and look at the mailbox, if anything were in there. So there is a risk, but it is relatively minute.
Another service I used to use, that’s a bit more polished (but of course, costs money now) is called Blur from Abine. Blur gives users the capability to use “Masked Emails” which is completely similar to the concept above, but instead the masked address will still send emails directly to your regular email address inbox.
The nice thing about Blur is that it uses browser plugins to automatically fill out email fields with your masked email address. However, Blur does require you to sign up and register for an account in order to use the service, so it’s not entirely anonymous. Blur also gives you some other nice features though, like the ability to mask credit cards and phone numbers.
Whatever method you decide, using a temporary email address, masking/scrambling addresses, phone numbers and credit cards will go a long way in protecting your personal identity online. If you think one of your numbers becomes compromised, just throw it away and generate a new one.
If you would like more information on how you can protect you or your company’s identity online, please contact us!