This story originally appeared on PCMag
Not long ago, the sharing economy seemed to take over. Privacy was dead, and no one cared. But that was a pre-Snowden era. Now, for some, the need to go truly anonymous is more important than ever.
What do you do if you want to set up an email address that is completely secret and nameless, with no obvious connection to you whatsoever without the the hassle of setting up your own servers?
This goes beyond just encrypting messages. Anyone can do that with web-based email like Gmail by using a browser extension like Secure Mail by Streak. For desktop email clients, GnuPG (Privacy Guard) or EnigMail is a must. Web-based ProtonMail promises end-to-end encryption with zero access to the data by the company behind it, plus it has apps for iOS and Android.
But those don’t hide who sent the message.
Here are the services you should use to create that truly nameless, unidentifiable email address. But be sure to use your powers for good.
First step: Browse anonymously
Your web browser is tracking you. It’s that simple. Cookies, and so-called unstoppable “super cookies” know where you’ve been and what you’ve done and they’re willing to share. Sure, it’s mostly about serving you targeted ads, but that’s not much consolation for those looking to surf in private.
Your browser’s incognito/private mode can only do so much — sites are still going to record your IP address, for example.
If you want to browse the web anonymously (and use that private time to set up an email), you need not only a virtual private network, but also the Tor Browser, a security-laden, Mozilla-based browser from the Tor Project. If you don’t know about Tor, it’s what used to be called The Onion Router; it’s all about keeping you anonymous by making all the traffic you send on the internet jump through so many servers, people on the other end can’t begin to know where you really are. It’ll take longer to load a website than it would with Firefox or Chrome, but that’s the price of vigilance.
The free Tor Browser is available in 16 languages, for Windows, macOS, and Linux. It’s self-contained and portable, meaning it’ll run off a USB flash drive if you don’t want to install it directly. Even Facebook has a Tor-secure address to protect the location of users — and let users get access in places where the social network is illegal or blocked, like China. An estimated 1 million people use it. There is also a version for getting Tor access to Facebook on Android devices.
Tor is not perfect and won’t keep you 1,000 percent anonymous. The criminals behind the Silk Road, among others, tried that and failed. But it’s a lot more secure than openly surfing. It took law enforcement agencies with a lot of resources to get those bad guys.
Second step: Anonymous email
You can set up a relatively anonymous Gmail account, you just have to lie like a bathroom rug. That means creating a full Google account, but not providing Google your real name, location, birthday, or anything else it can use when you sign up (while using a VPN and the Tor Browser, naturally).
You will eventually have to provide Google some other identifying method of contact, such as a third-party email address or a phone number. With a phone, you could use a burner/temp number; use an app like Hushed or Burner or buy a pre-paid cell phone and lie through your teeth when asked for any personal info. (Just know that even the most “secure” burner has its limits when it comes to keeping you truly anonymous.)
As for that third-party email, there are anonymous email services you can use, so why use Gmail at all? The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says it’s smart to use a different email provider from your personal account if you crave anonymity — that way you’re less likely to get complacent and make a compromising mistake.
Note that you also should use an email service that supports secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption. That’s the basic encryption used on a web connection to prevent casual snooping, like when you’re shopping at Amazon. You’ll know it’s encrypted when you see HTTPS in the URL, instead of just HTTP. Or a lock symbol shows up on the address bar or status bar. The big three webmail providers (Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Outlook.com) all support HTTPS. Get the HTTPS Everywhere extension for Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and on Android, to ensure that websites default to using the protocol.
That’s great for web surfing, but neither HTTPS nor VPN is enough to stay hidden when emailing. You know that.
Pseudonyms in email (like firstname.lastname@example.org) aren’t enough, either. Just one login without using Tor means your real IP address is recorded. That’s enough for you to be found (if the finder can get your provider to give up some records). It’s how General David Petraeus got nailed.
The point is, once you’ve gone this far, there’s no reason to go back. Use a truly anonymous web-based mail service; here are some of the best.
Recommended by the EFF and others, Hushmail’s entire claim to fame is that it’s easy to use, doesn’t include advertising, and has built-in encryption between members. Of course, to get all that, you have to pay for it, starting at $49.98 per year for 10GB of online storage; a free version offers 25MB of storage. Access it on the web or iOS.
Businesses can use Hushmail starting at $3.99 per user/month for nonprofits (going up to $5.99 for small businesses and $9.99 for legal and healthcare entities), plus a one-time $9.99 setup fee for everyone (though then you need to obfuscate your info for the Whois database).
Note that Hushmail has turned over records to the feds before, and its terms of service state you can’t use it for “illegal activity,” so it’s not going to fight court orders. But at least it’s honest about it up front.
Guerrilla Mail provides disposable, temporary email. Technically, the address will exist forever, and never be used again. Any messages received at the address, accessible at guerrillamail.com, only last one hour. You get a totally scrambled email address that’s easily copied to the clipboard. There’s an option to use your own domain name as well, but that’s probably not keeping you under the radar.
Guerrilla Mail is the perfect way to create an email address to sign up for a different, more permanent-yet-anonymous email address, or to send a quick, anonymous email instantly — no signup required. You can even attach a file if it’s less than 150MB in size, or use it to send someone your excess bitcoins. Coupled with the Tor browser, Guerilla Mail makes you practically invisible. It’s also available on Android.
Mailinator’s free, disposable email has a slick interface, but you probably don’t even need it. Whenever you’re asked for an email, just make up a name and stick @mailinator.com at the end. Then visit the site, enter the name, and you’ll see if it’s received any messages. No signup though you can sign in with a Google account.
Here’s the problem. If someone else comes up with the same name, then you both get access to the messages received. There are no passwords. There’s also no sending possible. Its FAQ states if you get an email from Mailinator, it’s a guaranteed forgery. This one is for quick service signups only, and only with the most obfuscated, obscure you can come up with. Of course, you can pay $29/month if you want to get a 10MB storage inbox that is private just for you.
You don’t get interfaces as simple as this very often. With no signup required, you enter the email name you want for an @pidmail.com address you can hand out. The messages sent to it immediately show up. It’s that simple, though it’s not for sending messages. You can reserve the address of your choice with a password, again at no cost to you.
Email On Dek
There’s a two-step process to getting a free email for receiving messages at Email On Deck, but only because step one is a CAPTCHA to make sure you’re a human being, not a web-based robot. It randomly assigns you an obfuscated email address (like “email@example.com”). You can click a button to get assigned another, but they’re all temporary. You don’t want to use this service if you plan to ever use the address assigned beyond, say, an hour or two.
TorGuard is another global VPN service, which goes for around $9.95/month to start. The service also provides a separate Anonymous Email, with service from free (10MB offshore storage) all the way up to $49.95/year for unlimited storage. They all have secure G/PGP encryption of mail and no ads. For more, see PCMag’s full review.
TrashMail.com isn’t just a site, but also a browser extension for Google Chrome and Firefox, so you don’t even have to visit the site. Create a new email from a number of domain options, and TrashMail.com will forward it to your regular address for the lifespan of the new address, as determined by you. The only limit is how many forwards you can get; to go unlimited, you pay $12.99 a year. The site provides a full address manager interface so create as many addresses as you like to stay anonymous and ubiquitous.
ProtonMail over Tor
Maybe saving the best for last: ProtonMail is a nice service with servers in Switzerland (a country that appreciates secrecy) that provides fully encrypted messages. Anyone can get an account for free that holds 500MB of data and up to 150 messages per day, or pay 4 euros per month to get the advanced features.
Encryption is one thing, but anonymity comes with the ProtonMail’s specific support for Tor via an onion site it set up at protonirockerxow.onion. It also provides full instructions on how to set up Tor on your desktop or mobile phone. Having anonymous users is so important to ProtonMail, it doesn’t require any personal info when you sign up. It even supports two-factor authentication.
Unilever Turns Up the Heat on Facebook & Google Over Tech’s ‘Unintended Consequences’
Unilever has issued a stern warning to digital platforms including Facebook, Google, and YouTube: do more to improve transparency and clean up the “swamp” of fake news, exploitative, and socially divisive content, or be cut off from its multi-billion dollar digital advertising budget.
CMO Keith Weed recently spoke at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual leadership meeting held in Palm Desert, Calif. CNBC quotes him as saying, “We need to redefine what is responsible business in the digital age because for all of the good the tech companies are doing, there’s some unintended consequences that now need addressing.”
Two of the most important consequences being referred to include the threatening of safety of users, especially young children, and loss of trust by consumers and companies at large.
While it’s unlikely that Unilever will turn its back on the two largest digital platforms, Weed’s words matter because of the sheer amount of ad budget Unilever holds across its portfolio brands. MediaPost reports that in 2017, the company spent approximately $9.8 billion on marketing and advertising, a quarter of which went to digital.
Beyond the public denouncements, Unilever is also working with IBM to develop a blockchain with which the company can more effectively reduce ad fraud via a record of what media is purchased and how it is delivered.
A separate MediaPost article shares YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s response to Weeds comments on Monday. In her own statement at Recode’s Code Media conference, she assured,
“We want to do the right set of things to build [Unilever’s] trust. They are building brands on YouTube, and we want to be sure that our brand is the right place to build their brand.”
Recent efforts we’ve seen in support of this include significant updates to its Creator Program policy. Further, in light of the recent Logan Paul controversy involving a video in which a suicide victim was filmed inside a Japanese forest, the company has suspended running ads on his channel, per Ad Age.
While brand safety is a concern on the minds of many marketers, Unilever’s public comments this week indicate that brands are viewing the issue with a much broader lens, and seriously questioning the role these platforms play in people’s everyday lives, beyond the world of advertising. In this important cultural moment, people are looking to brands and platforms to assume responsibility and be proactive to keep their spaces safe, trustworthy, and suitable for communities.
To further explore the overarching question of how technology, including digital platform giants, can be used to bring us closer together versus further apart, join us at SMWNYC April 24-27. Register today and save 20%.
Facebook’s Next Step in Building Community: $10M in Grants
Facebook has made several important announcements as of late the support its mission to create more “meaningful communities.” The latest? Investment in a newly announced Community Leadership program designed to support its community-building leaders through a variety of residency and fellowship opportunities that offer training, support, and funding.
Here’s how it will work: Facebook will name five “community leaders in residence” and provide up to $1 million each to fund their proposals, in addition to providing them with the opportunity to attend a customized leadership development training session.
Moreover, Facebook will select 100 individuals to join its fellowship program and receive up to $50,000 each for a “specific community initiative.” They’ll also participate in four in-person gatherings during which they will have the chance to meet and collaborate with other fellows.
Another key initiative in the works? Expanding Facebook’s “engineering team for community safety,” which is headquartered in London. In particular, the company hopes to double the number of employees focused on such efforts including detecting and stopping fake accounts, protecting people from harm (e.g harassment and scams), and making it easier to report content, by the end of 2018.
Further, Facebook outlined new tools for group admins, including page personalization options (e.g. color and the ability to pin announcements to the top of the page), the ability to create and share group rules; and more features to monitor Group Insights.
Outside of its Communities Summit, but along the theme of ensuring time on the platform is time well spent, the company also confirmed last week it was testing a downvote button that would allow users to provide feedback on comments in particular. The downvote button is being tested within a limited group of U.S. users for the time being.
This is not to be confused with a “dislike” button, but rather a more “lightweight way for people to provide a signal to Facebook that a comment is inappropriate, uncivil, or misleading”—this according to a Facebook spokesperson quoted in TechCrunch.
Here is what the button looks like in action:
As the screenshot depicts, the user will have the ability to select whether the post was found to be “offensive,” “misleading,” or “off topic,” the choices aimed to help guide Facebook’s course of action with respect to the particular piece of feedback.
Forbes adds that, the downvote option in its test mode only applies to public posts as opposed to Group posts or the Pages of public figures. It also doesn’t affect the ranking of the post and the number of downvotes a post gets won’t be publicly shared.
These initiatives by Facebook to reverse some of the negative perceptions of its role in society come at a critical time as brands and citizens alike are putting more and more pressure on the world’s leading tech platforms to course-correct their products for the safety of their users. Just this week, Unilever threatened to yank ad dollars from Facebook and Google due to the company’s growing dissatisfaction with their overall impact on society.
“We cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online,” stated Unilever CMO, Keith Weed, to the BBC.
Learn about Facebook’s increasingly complex role in society by joining SMWNYC April 24-27. The conference will offer multiple sessions designed to explore where brands and platforms fit into tech’s future in our world. Register today to secure your pass.
5 Ways Cryptocurrency Can Help Entrepreneurs in 2018
Cryptocurrency has revolutionized the way we transact value, invest our savings and raise capital with its decentralised digital cash system. Blockchain technology is a once-in-a-lifetime invention; never before in history have we been presented with such a breakthrough in financial technology. In 2018, entrepreneurs are well positioned to become early adopters of blockchain technology.
1. Raising capital
Cryptocurrency has disrupted the way early stage companies raise capital. With initial coin offerings, startups around the world can raise money quickly and cheaply from a wide pool of global investors. The valuation of a company is almost immediately reflected by the market, a process that has traditionally been challenging for early stage businesses. Shares are issued as tokens and tradable almost immediately, bringing large amounts of liquidity to the company.
This new approach to raising capital has changed the world and enabled the best technical talent to build their companies at high speed. In 2014, a teenager from Canada called Vitalik Buterin raised money for his startup, Ethereum, through an initial coin offering. He wanted to improve on Bitcoin’s blockchain and create a platform for people to build unstoppable applications. With just a whitepaper and a vision, he was able to successfully raise $18 million for his new blockchain, which was valued at over $100 billion as of January 2018.
2. Transacting value
Cryptocurrency enables us to transact value between peers without a centralized authority. It provides a cheaper, faster and more efficient alternative to traditional payment networks. As a company, accepting cryptocurrency payments is becoming increasingly efficient, saving on fees and bringing faster settlement. Soon, startups will no longer need to go through the long process of setting up a business bank account to receive and distribute funds. In 2014, Overstock.com became the first retailer to accept bitcoin, receiving over 800 orders worth $126,000 in bitcoin in the first 22 hours. It has since amassed a $403,000 portfolio of cryptocurrency.
3. Investing for the future
For entrepreneurs, cryptocurrency may be the investment opportunity of a lifetime. Never before in history have retail investors had investment access to high growth early stage companies. Traditionally, venture capital funds and private angel investors have held monopolies on access to investment in the world’s best technical talent. Cryptocurrency provides a gateway for anyone in the world to invest in the world’s most exciting technology, allowing retail investors to own a basket of high growth companies. For example, through the decentralized method of blockchain investment, teenager Erik Finnman was able to invest in Bitcoin in 2011, becoming a Bitcoin millionaire at age 18. These types of investment stories would not be possible with traditional private venture capital fundraising.
4. Developing on the blockchain
The blockchain offers powerful infrastructure for companies to run their technology and create entirely new business models in a trusted way without a centralized authority. Blockchain technology is already revolutionizing the way startups create value. The Ethereum platform allows companies to build unstoppable blockchain applications quickly and for free. One example of a company leveraging the Ethereum blockchain is OmiseGO, a payments company that is using blockchain to provide banking services for the world’s 2 billion unbanked population. Blockchain technology is a cost-efficient way of building decentralized applications that can scale to a global population.
5. Joining the blockchain community
The blockchain community offers access to some of the world’s best entrepreneurs, who are actively investing, advising and building upon the blockchain. Telegram, Facebook, WeChat, Slack and WhatsApp groups have proved popular in building communities of decentralized blockchain investors who can communicate with each other on a daily basis. Many large investments in early stage technology companies can be coordinated within minutes, a process that would traditionally take months in traditional venture capital. For example, in 2017, Brave’s Basic Attention Token sale sold out of its $35 million offering within 30 seconds. The blockchain community offers a strong sense of purpose with all members committed to a common goal of advancing blockchain technology to global adoption.
Cryptocurrency provides a platform for entrepreneurs to raise capital quickly, cheaply and efficiently. Entrepreneurs can transact value through the blockchain at high speed with limited setup costs and invest in high growth technology companies at an early stage. Platforms like Ethereum allow entrepreneurs to build decentralized applications to a global audience for free. The blockchain community offers access to some of the top entrepreneurs, engineers and investors in the world and in 2018, cryptocurrency will continue to provide a viable means for entrepreneurs to create value in the world.
7 Ways to Get Recruiters and Job Offers to Come to You
“You are your own brand, and you need to build that brand and promote it as much as possible. It is important that you start building your brand online, because this is where employers are going to be looking for potential employees,” suggests Dima Midon, an expert from TrafficBox. Use all of the online tools at your disposal, particularly LinkedIn, which is a professional network that allows you to really promote yourself as a professional, and someone who is an expert in your field. This is a great tool for job seekers. Make sure that you keep your profile up to date, especially when it comes to contact information, so when an employer searches you, they will be able to contact you if they are interested in learning more.
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