Why pay when you can get one for free?
Very early yesterday morning I got myself a new email address, but not a free one. I had to pay CHF27 (CHF25 for 12 months plus CHF2 for the VAT) for this privilege. Why did I do so when I already have four email accounts? I did so out of frustration with the main Swiss email provider I have been using since early July 2013, i.e. since Mr Snowden’s revelations about the prying eyes of the USA’s NSA and the UK’s GCHQ made the headlines of the world’s newspapers and press agencies.
Email and me, almost a love affair
My first email account was with a Geneva-based Internet service provider, geneva-link.ch (acquired a number of years ago by Infomaniak, now a fast-expanding Internet service and data centre provider whereas in my twenties/thirties Infomaniak was simply the best port of call in Geneva for computer geeks). While I was still in Geneva I switched to a Lausanne-based ISP (urbanet.ch) a little later on, probably because it was cheaper. However, a year or two after I had moved to Lausanne (that was in October 2001), I switched to the city of Lausanne’s own ISP because it was based on cable and it came with cable-TV (even though I did not watch much of it as I was still using a television set I had bought in my teens to serve as a monitor for my very first computer, a ZX Spectrum — see this short BBC clip).
I set up an account with Yahoo! in November 2002 after having used a French equivalent, caramail, a service which disappeared not long after the Internet bubble burst in Europe too. I set up an account with Gmail only in February 2007 because I had been a little uneasy about the monopolistic ambitions of this famous company based in Mountain View already in the early 2000s – in fact, I had only set up a Gmail account for the purpose of receiving alerts on specific topics, but the keyword ads had made a little suspicious of the service and, although I have not terminated this account, I seldom use it.
Certainly not more than meets the eye
An interview of Switzerland’s Mr Privacy published in a local weekly in the aftermath of Edward’s Snowden revelations convinced me to open an account with the email service offered by Swisscom (Switzerland’s national telco), called bluewin, as I did not like the idea that data about me would be passed on to third parties for commercial or other purposes. Unfortunately, only three months later, Swisscom decided to follow the example of Yahoo! and its highly sensationalistic approach to news selection on the page to which users are being redirected after having exited the email section. I was so disappointed that I even complained to bluewin about the change when users were solicited to provide feedback, even though I knew it would be to no avail given that this major revamp implied a shift in strategy towards catering to the lowest common denominators.
Why not go yellow?
A powerful statement from the Swiss Post on email confidentiality.
In September 2014, I decided that I had had enough of bluewin‘s vulgarity, sensationalism and mindless promotion of sport, so I decided to look for alternatives, preferably encrypted ones (just to give the NSA the fig, to use a Shakespearan expression). The US government having shut down almost a year earlier the most famous such encrypted webmail, lavabit, I contemplated settling upon a Swiss counterpart, called Neomailbox. However, I opted for an alternative provided by the Swiss Post, called IncaMail, which is available at an annual subscription fee of CHF29. Unfortunately, email recipients must register with IncaMail before they can open any messages sent through this platform (probably because the email remains on their servers) and I have found out that some recipients are unwilling to go through the registration process (even though it is free for the recipient). In addition, IncaMail does not provide any incamail.ch addresses but uses one’s existing webmail or e-mail client. This is why I had to carry on using bluewin despite my strong reservations about the quality of this service (I have encountered several technical glitches) and its apparent intent to keep users in a state of manufactured imbecility (my coinage).
Why not use my own website’s address?
Last month, I set up a mini website because I had to transfer some extra heavy documents and I did not want to use a service like DropBox. The solution I found was to make the files ‘downloadable’ from a password-protected page on the Internet. To do so, I decided to buy some storage space on the servers of Infomaniak, the company which had acquired my very first ISP a couple of years ago. Based in Geneva, Infomaniak is subject to Switzerland’s strict confidentiality laws, which is why I would assume that there is less of a risk that my metadata or data will be passed on to a third party – even though I am aware of the fact that as the Internet primarily makes use of American-based infrastructure, it is close to impossible to avoid the NSA’s or the tech giants’ prying eyes). So I am now the proud owner of an email address that ends with my firstnamesurname.ch. This is what I call customisation. 😉
My next aim is to migrate this blog to the servers of Infomaniak because, you know, there is no free lunch. Offering services for free on the Internet is only possible because the user is the commodity…
POSTSCRIPT (18 March 2015)
Amnesty International issued today the results of a survey conducted worldwide in which more than 15,000 people were questioned regarding the United States’ mass surveillance of Internet and phone use – roughly two thirds said that they were opposed to such monitoring – Amnesty Int’l’s press release (‘Global opposition to USA big brother mass surveillance’) is available here.
- Presentation of IncaMail by the Swiss Post (includes a clip)
- Presentation of Infomaniak‘s webmail service
- Big brother is watching you … (post on this blog)