Google’s Gmail is one of the most popular email clients in the world. Despite its widespread use, it is known to be invasive and bad for digital privacy.
Lately, people are waking up and wanting to protect their digital footprint with a more secure email client. If you value your privacy, it's time to join the wave of people turning away from Gmail. The good news is that there are hundreds of secure alternatives available on the market to choose from.
The problems with Gmail
Google does a lot right. It is good at spotting Spam, it alerts users to malware, and it keeps an active watch on where people are logging into their accounts from - to try to actively spot intruders.
So what is it about Gmail that is a problem? And, why are so many people looking for an alternative?
Google is known to scan emails for keywords. It used to do this to serve adverts and create a revenue stream. However, it has since claimed it no longer does this.
Even if you use ad blocking tools; a database about you is forming in Google’s (and possibly third-party’s) hands. If Google is still scanning emails for keywords but isn’t directly serving adverts using this information - it begs the question - why is Google doing it at all?
Third-party apps you download, install, and use, may also scan the content of your emails to serve adverts. Often people don’t realize that when they accept app permission, they are permitting a third party to scan their emails directly. Google has been accused of giving hundreds of firms access to email accounts.
Google is a US-based firm that the US government could potentially compel to store and provide data about its users. The US enforces warrants that can force firms to hand over data and keep it a secret (gag orders). The result is that Google could let the government look at your emails and you would never know. Also, US firms can US laws can compel US firms to provide access to all data on all servers around the world; not only those servers in the US. That means the US could snoop on your data even if you aren’t an American (in fact, it is almost more likely to be doing so thanks to FISA, the Patriot Act, and the Cloud Act).
Gmail is known to have been compromised by US authorities’ invasive PRISM program since as far back as 2009. That program allowed them to intercept and read everybody’s emails. It is not known whether the NSA or CIA are still intercepting emails en masse, but many people believe they are.
Gmail does not provide a native way to send secure End to End (E2E) encrypted emails. PGP encryption, for example, must be achieved by using an extension such as Mailvelope. Also, although Google cannot scan PGP encrypted emails, it can see the metadata (headers, from who, to who, and when).
The best paid Gmail alternatives
To bypass one of the main problems with Gmail (that it is free and must be funded with data mining), you may need to pay for an email client account if you want access to a personalized address (or multiple addresses and monickers).
The good news is that there are plenty of trusted email providers on the market that are not expensive. Funding the email provider with subscription fee money means you know the provider can deliver a service without ever having to look in your emails.
What’s more, the recommended providers listed below because they have PGP encryption integrated into their clients securely. Plus, they are all Open Source, which means that security experts have been able to analyze the platforms to ensure there are no bugs, vulnerabilities, or backdoors, that could affect users.
The email clients listed below have all the features necessary to make your shift from Gmail to a secure service stress-free. They can easily map your contacts over from your old Gmail account.
This popular email provider is based in Switzerland. It was founded and is still developed by engineers from CERN. It is a fully featured email client that fully integrates PGP encryption into the client. ProtonMail is open source, and it is packed with features that make it easy to control the flow of mail. For a full review of ProtonMail please look here. Advantages:
Much more secure than regular email
Emails are not spied on for advertising purposes
Easy to use and looks great
Completely open source
Can send encrypted emails to non-users
Genuinely useful premium options (including own domains)
This provider is based in Germany. It is a highly regarded Open Source email client that is feature rich. The service is also extremely cheap, coming in at just 1 Euro per month. For a full review of this fantastic email provider check out our review here. Advantages:
Costs just 1 EUR per month
POP3 or IMAP for use on any client on OS X, iOS, Android, Windows, or Linux
Emphasis on privacy, data reduction, zero tracking, green energy, sustainability, social justice
Fully featured: Server-side email encryption, calendar and contacts, E2E with other clients/users if required, cross-client compatibility
Email metadata can also be encrypted
This is another excellent email client that is based in Germany. Tutanota is known for providing strong end to end encrypted emails and many important features necessary from a good email client. It is not as fully featured as the options above, but it can be used for free. However, if you want features like custom domains and unlimited searches, you will need to pay $12 per year. For a full review of Tutanota please look here. Advantages:
Good SSL encryption
Good privacy protection (no automatic loading of images, strips IP addresses from emails sent, warns about issue with the sender’s header info)
Client & apps are fully open source
Solid Android and iOS apps
Bulk contact import via vCard is possible
Can receive an encrypted reply from regular email users
This email service hasn’t been fully reviewed by our team yet. However, it is a popular email service that is getting a lot of support from the privacy community. It provides access to OpenPGP encrypted email in a browser. It also supports IMAP. Also cool: CounterMail lets you set up a USB drive for dual authentication. This stops hackers from accessing your email even if they steal your password. Advantages:
Lots of customizability
Supports email filters.
Uses anonymous email headers.
Works in your browser and with an iOS app.
Comes with several identities that you can use to receive mail in your primary CounterMail inbox.
The best free Gmail alternatives
Most email providers will make you pay for their service if you want access to all the features. However, there are some that will let you use a stripped back version of the client for free. Most of these have a limited amount of storage and only allow one email address per free account:
Signal (not actually an email account, but is free and is more secure than an email account when it comes to encrypted messaging).
If you are tired of hearing stories about the privacy disadvantages of Gmail, it might be time to head over to another service. Many email providers provide a limited service for free. And if you like being able to email with end-to-end-encryption the cost to upgrade to a premium account is cheap with even the best secure email providers.
For a more detailed look at using secure email services, and to find out more about the services we have mentioned above -please visit our in-depth secure email providers guide.