Soon impossible to have an anonymous E-mail at all? Hushmail lets us down.
The noose is tightening around the anonymity’s neck, and it’s not just the governments that are the executioners, also companies that we thought were on our side.
For a long time I have planned to start encrypting my E-mail with GPG. But I haven’t found an E-mail provider that provides anonymity (and hence isn’t a paid service), that has POP/IMAP and SMTP, and is not American.
So, I’ve been using a Canadian service called Hushmail, which was halfway between end-to-end GPG and regular E-mail: It can encrypt GPG, but only on their servers, via a webmail interface, however with SSL encryption.
Just recently I was told that Hushmail no longer accepts signing up without providing a cell phone number, identifying the person signing up. I checked, and that is exactly what has happened. This is a link to the signup page.
Previously Hushmail has made it possible to use two-step verification, resulting in many concerned commenters pointing out that it goes against the reason for using Hushmail. For example, ”rexgoodchild01” wrote
That’s why I came to Hushmail in the first place – to avoid more divulging of personal information. No thank you Hushmail – simple online anonymity is my right. I’ll stop using this email service if it ever becomes an issue. – R. Goodchild
To these concerned comments, on August 19, 2014, Hushmail responded:
We apologize if it was not made as clear as it could have been but this feature is entirely optional. It is up to you if you want to enable it or not.
That was then. Now, just over half a year later, it is MANDATORY for new subscribers to provide their phone numbers. This is high-level hypocrisy at its finest.. err, foulest.
This gives clear signals about Hushmail. It is not to be trusted. You shouldn’t trust a non-end-to-end-encrypted system with seriously sensitive stuff anyway, but this really shouts out ”do not trust Hushmail with anything, they are not taking privacy seriously”.
I will keep my Hushmail account only because I haven’t found anything better. I’ve found two suitable services, but on both signing up is ”currently disabled” or similar. Do not send me anything that contains sensitive information.
Not being able to have an anonymous E-mail isn’t just making it impossible to send E-mail anonymously. A working E-mail address is necessary for signing up to most message boards, blogs, and a lot of other services. It means that anonymity becomes impossible there too. This is a very serious problem.