Update: You may be interested in Filtered, my new open source IMAP-based mail filtering application which includes the capability to encrypt selected messages, removing them from your IMAP or Gmail account.
I’ve posted a new tutorial called, How to Install Your Own Private E-mail Server in the Cloud.
Background & Motivations
The concept of privacy is rapidly under threat as technology advances – it’s clearly a time of great cultural change and policy shifts. Living in Seattle, authorities can track me via cell phone, automated license plate reader, bus pass, and even the transmitter in my drivers license. And, if a warrant is issued for my credit card, email, Internet or Car2go activity, then my life becomes an open book. I know a little about all this – I helped nab Wired writer Evan Ratliff in its 2009 Vanish contest.
The NSA revelations this week make it clear that our privacy is not just tenuous, it’s imaginary at this point. The best writing I’ve seen to make sense of this story is by Slate’s Manjoo: “…now, after it has just proven itself so inept at handling its own information, the [NSA] still wants us to believe that it can securely hold on to all of our data”. It can’t. And that’s just one more reason this kind of government power is a terrible idea. Another reason is that the really bad people are smart enough to avoid mass surveillance like PRISM. Wonkblog’s description of the difference between authoritarian surveillance states and democratic ones is also excellent.
But this doesn’t mean that we need to roll over and give Google and the government ready access to our email.
I’ve been slowly working on this tutorial for some time but last week’s disclosures of the NSA’s domestic spying led me to complete it now. For some time I’ve had growing concerns of our dependence on Google and Facebook and the increasing commodification of our personal information for profit. Last year’s Petraeus affair made the power of the government’s access to GMail more obvious and I quit using Facebook in January. The shutdown announcement for Google Reader, stories of being cut off from GMail without notice and Google technical outages also motivated me to consider other options, for privacy and redundancy.
While I’m not entirely surprised by the PRISM disclosure, I am disgusted by the U.S. government’s wholesale violation of Americans’ Fourth Amendment Right to privacy in the electronic age and President Obama’s heightened attacks on whistleblowers. I’m also dismayed by what I expect will turn out to be Clinton-esque lies by Google and Facebook about their “lack of” involvement in PRISM. In my view, Edward Snowden is a stronger protector of the Bill of Rights than President Barack Obama. I especially admire his courage in light of the torture of Bradley Manning. I refuse to adjust to the new normal of the authoritarian surveillance state.
A Tutorial to Self-Host Your Email in the Cloud
This tutorial provides step by step instructions for installing an open source email server – a path away from GMail which reduces your reliance on Google and at least makes it a bit harder for your communications to be swept up in broader government surveillance such as PRISM.
If you’re non-technical and just want a high quality GMail alternative, check out FastMail run by the Opera folks. The company says the privacy of its U.S.-based servers are protected by Australian law and less subject to U.S. snooping (more further below).