Bye Bye Gmail
23 Feb 2012

Since a couple months ago, I have stopped using my address and have now replaced it entirely by my new one: . I think this is worth an explanation.

I own my address

First of all, I do not wish to be tied to an email address which I do not own. As a reminder, all addresses are owned not their users, but by Google. This increases the cost of switching email address: if your email account is disabled, you run the risk of losing contacts who are not aware of your address change. This is similar to changing your mobile phone number; usually, what you do is that you send your close friends your new phone number. Naturally, notifying all of my 2400 email contacts of an address change is not an option. So I decided to redirect all Gmail-incoming emails to my newly acquired address and to send all emails from this new address.

I own my data

But I also decided to move my data away from Gmail. This has been a tough decision, technically speaking. I was one of the very first Gmail users, back in 2004. My main Gmail address now hosts 6.2 Gb of emails. Around mid 2011, I realised how important to me was the content of my mailbox: it contains all my contacts, all of my intimate correspondence with my family, all of my love affairs, in-depth reflection with my advisors about my PhD, a lot of photography work, bank account coordinates, clear-text passwords from various websites, a small amount of illegal music files, professional correspondence with potential or actual employers, and much more. Losing all this data would be dreadful. And you know what? it happens. Worse, sometimes Google makes it happen: it has happened more and more frequently with the rise of Google's social network Google+ and its requirement to make use of the user's real name. And for different reasons, I do not want to use my real name on Google+. Losing the content of my mailbox was not, and still isn't an option, so trusting Google with it has become less and less rational.

I have nothing to hide, but my friends might

For all these reasons, I am now self-hosting my email on my personal server, of which I make frequent backups. The technical and financial details of this move will be given in later posts. I would just like to mention one last argument which has been decisive in my choice of switching to a self-hosted email service: I am concerned not only by the safety of my data, but also of my friends' and family's. Suppose one of my friends commits a crime and, for one reason or another, tells me about it in an email. He might need help or just need to talk about it. This email becomes a piece of evidence which can be used against him. In the past, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have all complied with police warrants from various countries to provide personal user data. This situation has made me more and more uncomfortable, if not downright anxious. They tell me I have nothing to fear if I have nothing to hide. Well, I know about me, but what about my friends?