Friday, August 22, 2003

Free anonymous email with an unusual price tag


Want Truly Anonymous Mail? Anonymity and privacy are two separate things. While they often go hand in hand, there are times when they can be separated. I have to admit, I really like the idea Bob Cringely is describing in his latest column of an anonymous email system that has been put in place called Mailinator. Whenever you're asked to enter in a "valid" email address for something, where you don't want to give out any info but do need to get a "response" email, you just enter in any thing @mailinator.com and it will work. You don't have to sign up with Mailinator. You don't have to worry if someone already has that email address. So, how do you retrieve the email? You just go and check it. There are no passwords. In other words, it's anonymous - no one knows who you are. But it's not private. Anyone can check your email - if they know what email address you used. There's a little bit of privacy through obscurity, but probably not much. So, more common "addresses" might have mail coming in for multiple people, but everyone can go in and find their email. Cringely also suggests that someone will create a search engine for the system that will run through all the email accounts, but I'm not sure why that's worthwhile.

[via Techdirt]


This is very interesting. It might be worthwhile for a spammer or a hacker to run through these accounts since they are likely to have passwords and usernames for various minor registrations. However, most people use the same or similar passwords/usernames for everything and so knowing a password to someone's NYTimes registration might open up their AOL or E-Trade account. The system is probably profitable through advertising served while you check "your" email and has got to be a great commercial for the company that hosts it - Outscheme. I already bookmarked their page.

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