Best Private Email Service
December 31, 2019 6:45 AM   Subscribe

What is the current (start of 2020) best email service for me? I need private low-cost low-bells-and-whistles email. My main concern is that the company be in business for at least the next five years and have web access to my inbox. After that, standard email should do fine. Private does not necessarily mean encrypted, I just don't want anyone parsing my email as a matter of course.
posted by OmieWise to Computers & Internet (28 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Both Proton Mail or Fast Mail are well respected services.

(Proton Mail got a nice little cameo in the excellent Knives Out movie...)
posted by bitdamaged at 7:10 AM on December 31, 2019 [5 favorites]

I've been very happy with Fastmail for several years now.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 7:24 AM on December 31, 2019 [7 favorites]

I've been happy with for many years.
posted by H21 at 7:31 AM on December 31, 2019

I'm happy with ProtonMail. It IS encrypted, just as a nice thing to have.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:34 AM on December 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Fastmail has been bulletproof for me for years now. No complaints.
posted by hijinx at 7:41 AM on December 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just switched to Fastmail last month and was very impressed with their migration tools to import emails from other services.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:56 AM on December 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Been with Fastmail for nearly eight years. No complaints at all. Basic plan will be $30 a year, or you can add your own domain + a hefty amount of storage for $50 a year. (Also includes calendaring and some file storage with WebDAV & a web interface.)

They've continued to improve the Web interface over the years, recently added a "snooze" feature similar to Gmail's that I like quite a bit. They don't do ads, so they're not parsing your email to look for keywords for ads or anything. As far as I know they don't look into users' mail spools unless they're troubleshooting, but any provider that receives plain text email can see it if they want to.
posted by jzb at 7:58 AM on December 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Fastmail is a great company but they are based in Australia which has some batshit insane laws around internet privacy.
posted by Lanark at 8:02 AM on December 31, 2019

Also a Protonmail user and very happy with it.
posted by pjsky at 8:24 AM on December 31, 2019

I’ve been happy with Tuffmail for years but I must admit not much in the web interface looks to have been updated for a long time, so it doesn’t look as slick as the alternatives, which I’ve never used.
posted by fabius at 8:39 AM on December 31, 2019

You said, "low-cost low-bells-and-whistles email", so this comment may be for other, future readers of this thread. One way to future proof your email account is to bring your own domain. This is going to be more expensive - annual cost of domain, annual cost of keeping domain contact info private (optional), and perhaps a higher tier of email plan with someone like fastmail or proton mail to get the custom domain feature. It is also more technical hassle. Having said that, I've been using a custom domain for 15+ years and have had to migrate before when my then-provider got acquired and the service really degraded. Bringing my own domain made that migration transparent to everyone I regularly exchange email with.
posted by kovacs at 9:00 AM on December 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've been with Fastmail for some years and feel absolutely no desire to go anywhere else. And yes, the pack of nongs currently in charge of Australia has indeed passed some characteristically ill-considered anti-encryption laws; but as is customary for this particular clown car, it's quite clear that nobody involved in drafting them has got any idea whatsoever about how anything actually works, encryption included.

If you want to exchange encrypted mails over Fastmail or any other mail carrier, and you use PGP or S/MIME or any other mail encryption standard where the private encryption keys are held only on your own endpoint devices and managed by software you control, neither Fastmail nor anybody else can do diddly to provide the spooks with access to the content of those mails.

Here, by the way, is Fastmail's description of its security practices and here's its rationale for not building end-to-end message encryption into its own service, but instead encouraging you to add it as your own layer over the top of their service if you need it. Essentially, Fastmail doesn't want to put itself in a position where any facility it controls has anything to do with managing your private encryption keys.

ProtonMail makes encryption very easy but it does that by taking on the responsibility of managing your encryption keys in a manner intended to be transparent to you. If you trust somebody else to do that then they might suit you very well. Personally I do not. My secrets are my secrets.

ProtonMail, being Swiss, might offer stronger protection than any Australian or US corporation could against forced disclosure of email metadata (message size and timing).

Fastmail's $5/month Standard plan (the one I use) allows you to use your own domain for mail addressing, if you like the sound of kovacs's point about migration transparency but cannot be arsed running your own email server; a task which is, in 2019, way fiddlier than it used to be.
posted by flabdablet at 9:23 AM on December 31, 2019 [4 favorites]

By the way, Fastmail's webmail client is pleasant enough that I've essentially stopped bothering to use a dedicated client on my desktop boxes. I fire one up occasionally to back my mails up, but day-to-day is all webmail now.
posted by flabdablet at 11:50 AM on December 31, 2019

Another happy Fastmail user reporting.

> Private does not necessarily mean encrypted, I just don't want anyone parsing my email as a matter of course.

Like flabdablet said, private does mean end-to-end encrypted, and only if you trust your own computer(s), which is a whole other can of worms, and are willing to overlook the unavoidable metadata leaks.

No one can tell you who does or doesn't look at your emails, companies can pinky promise whatever they want in their privacy policies, whether they follow them or not is anyone's guess. If it's plaintext, assume everyone is reading it.
posted by Bangaioh at 11:55 AM on December 31, 2019

I used the free Zoho option for quite a while before upgrading to a paid account. It works great for me. There's a lot of auxiliary apps that I never use, but I think are included.
posted by hydra77 at 12:22 PM on December 31, 2019

I’ve been using Posteo for a year or so now and I’m quite happy with it. No service interruptions, good privacy model, just set it and forget sort of service.
posted by The Hyacinth Girl at 12:56 PM on December 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Posteo as well!
posted by mathiu at 1:16 PM on December 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

FWIW, Fastmail's actual *servers* are in NYC. I'm not sure if that buys you one country's laws or two, but both countries are five eyes partners anyway, so there it is...
posted by scolbath at 1:29 PM on December 31, 2019

Everything flabdablet said +1. Fastmail is solid as can be.
posted by nostrada at 2:46 PM on December 31, 2019

Nthing 'get your own domain'.

I used free-tier Zoho for a domain email several years ago. I found it easy to set up but a bit sticky to migrate away from and close.

I've used both Tuffmail and for my domains in the past. They lead the ultra-low-end of paid email hosting. One account/emailbox can serve multiple domains.

I've read others praise, also in the low-to-medium price tier with FastMail and PolarisMail.

Many domain registrars and web hosters (e.g. 1&1, Rackspace) offer email as a sideline. I currently use domain registrar as my registrar and email provider for some domains. They offer 2 free emailboxes with copious aliasing/forwarding bundled with each domain registration/transfer. More emailboxes/increased capacity are available for a nominal charge. Since it's bundled with your domain registration, you can buy multiple years up front. So far, no trust issues sending to the major MX's.
posted by Quesaak at 5:49 PM on December 31, 2019

Fastmail is great. I've had my own domain there forever. I think their servers are in the US? At any rate, I don't use encryption at the moment. But very happy with their service, interface, uptime, etc.
posted by lhauser at 6:30 PM on December 31, 2019

Polarismail (based in Canada) is $12/yr for basic IMAP / Webmail - no extra charge to use your own domain. I've had zero problems with them.
posted by COD at 7:59 AM on January 1, 2020

check with your ISP to see what their privacy/harvesting stance is. I use which is not just pro-user but also pro-privacy and has been around for ages, and it is a welcome improvement to gmail. Your local ISP *may* be similarly awesome.
posted by zippy at 10:03 AM on January 1, 2020

$12/yr for basic IMAP / Webmail

How much mail storage space do they give you for that?

I quite like always having ten times more space allocated than I've used, which has been the case since I first migrated my Gmail account contents to my new Fastmail account some years back, and never having to bother cleaning any of it out. I currently have 2.7GB of old mail stored on Fastmail servers out of a 30GB budget, and I haven't had to delete anything (except spam, which deletes itself after a month) because the growth rate of the storage budget is ever so slightly faster than that of my email collection.
posted by flabdablet at 10:46 AM on January 1, 2020

How much mail storage space do they give you for that?

25GB mailbox plus 5GB file storage
posted by COD at 11:33 AM on January 1, 2020

That's good value for money.
posted by flabdablet at 5:32 AM on January 2, 2020

Anything wrong with the obvious choose of Posteo?
posted by turkeyphant at 8:26 PM on January 2, 2020

I signed up for Namecheap's Private Email costing $12/yr and was pretty unhappy with since the mails stopped reaching my forwarded Gmail address after some time. It was then that I searched for alternatives and realized I don't have to throw my money this way since I can get webmail for free with web hosting.
posted by Lazylord at 2:02 AM on January 3, 2020

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