As smartphones and social media gained prominence over the last few years, many thought that WhatsApp messaging would render emails (the killer app that brought the Internet into the mainstream three decades ago, give or take) a thing of the past. Email is still around, and it’s more vital than ever. The new means of communication didn’t kill emails; they just gave it a specific niche for which it’s irreplaceable.
If you need an account in the currently ubiquitous cloud services, confirm your identity at Amazon or send a love letter; WhatsApp, Telegram, or Facebook won’t do. Email is still indispensable, and emails are still where our most sensitive information is stored.
But there’s one thing about emails. They’re a two-way identifiable communication system. It’s in the core design and was supposed to be like that from the beginning.
So how much information are you giving up about yourself when you send an email? Your email address is a prominent piece of data, of course. But that’s not the only thing you should keep in mind. Emails include a lot of information that can identify you in several ways.
For example, suppose you read the entire email header (which most clients won’t show you by default; you have to tinker a little to see it). The header is very technical, including things such as the sender’s IP address or the routing information for the message in question. In other words, using emails anonymously is never the default option. It’s pretty hard, as a matter of fact.