Six months ago, due to privacy concerns, I migrated my domain’s email hosting from Gmail to MyKolab (you can read about how to do that here) and very happy with the results I’ve been too. MyKolab handles all my email, contacts, tasks and calendars across a range of devices: Mac, Windows, iPhone and iPad, and there seems to be no significant latency issues with the service being hosted in Switzerland, with its fairly strict privacy laws.
In the past few weeks a new secure email service has entered beta testing. StartMail is from the creators of the metasearch engines StartPage and Ixquick, which are owned by a company registered in Holland, presumably making StartMail subject to Dutch privacy laws. The location of the service provider is significant because, as pointed out in an article on the Association of Computing Machinery website, cryptography is not a single solution to privacy; politics and laws are greater concerns.
As StartPage is my default search engine I decided to join the beta testing of StartMail. During beta testing, StartMail is free but I understand that it will be a paid for service with none of the targeted advertising that keeps Gmail free (in the monetary sense) to users. In these privacy-aware days using one company for both email and searching might be too many eggs in one basket.
Look and feel
The webmail part of the service looks very slick and intuitive, and there are some rather nifty features for the modern web user to enjoy.
Probably my favourite feature of StartMail is email aliases, and in particular time-limited disposable email aliases. When signing up on an untrusted website it’s best practice to not use your main email account, doing so exposes it to the risk of being harvested for spam. That may not happen immediately and might not be the website owner’s intention but given the rate at which tech companies are bought and sold then it certainly can become a risk in the future.
I try to use disposable email aliases from providers such as Mailinator or GuerillaMail where possible. However, many sites deliberately block email addresses from these domains in order to prevent spammers from using their services. StartMail’s time-limited non-reusable email aliases address this dichotomy perfectly.
The non-reusable trait of the disposable aliases is important as some temporary email providers allow their aliases to be reused by others in the future, an uncertainty that the StartMail feature alleviates.
Up to three permanent email aliases can also be created for each account, which would be useful for separating different aspects of online life.
Restrict session origin
As a security measure, by default StartMail restricts the current web session to the IP address that originated it. So if you log on at one location, say a coffee shop, and then move to another location, your session should expire. This would certainly have helped one of my family members who recently looked at her Gmail IP addresses to find that she was logged in, in both Australia and Hong Kong. This restriction can be turned off for when using such services as Tor or mobile internet.