Keeping Email Safe

Free Software Foundation (FSF) just published a great infographic titled “Email Self-Defense”. It’s about how ordinary citizens can secure their email against spying. Their infographic explains the issue in a fun way. They also published a step by step guide for getting started with secure email.

Do check out the links to FSF’s work above. I originally intended to just share the links, but then I typed up some of my thoughts (below).

Mailing A Letter

Hey, my letter arrived unopened.
It’s nice to have a private conversation.

When you send a birthday card to your Grandma, you mostly expect that it will arrive with the envelope still sealed. It’s not that you and your Grandma are discussing something subversive; it’s just that it’s nice to have privacy.

WTF, my letter has been opened.
Oh yeah, because I live in a prison.

If we lived in a prison, we would not be surprised that the guards read our mail. But we are not living in a prison… and yet our emails are being read. Do our daily lives have something in common with a prison?!

Sending An Email

Unencrypted email: Everybody
in the middle can read it.

With a normal email, anyone in the middle can read it. The government can slurp it into a database and scan it over and over. Even a bad guy could be in the middle reading your emails.

Encrypted email: Securely packaged
for the trip across the internet.

Since we are free people and not prisoners, we can pro-actively take back our email privacy using encryption. Both the sender and receiver would need to be able to handle the encrypted email.

I think average citizens like us don’t have to passively accept that our email is read. We can pro-actively take back some of our privacy using technology that already exists.

Why not try to use GnuPG to send some secure emails? It could be a fun little tech project.

Encryption Worries

Criminals have the best hats, creepy smiles,
and they use encryption.

Some people will say that only criminals use encryption, therefore using encryption will make you look like a criminal. Maybe criminals do use it, but plenty of good people use it as well.

Nice people use encryption too.
People who like freedom and who
have an expectation of privacy.

If many more people start encrypting their emails, it will begin to look appropriately common. We already routinely encrypt web traffic for banking, shopping, and so on.


No big conclusion. I was just going to share the links to Free Software Foundation’s work, and I ended up typing up some random thoughts.

Here are the original links which inspired this page: