It’s probably the biggest myth of the digital age that we are hidden on the web. There is no foolproof iron curtain. But even then, there exist many ways to maintain relative anonymity. Anonymizers exist in some form or the other; all geared to prevent the detection and tracing of user activity on the web.
One such class of anonymous services is about the use of emails. Anonymous emails allow you to send emails without revealing your ID or detectable fingerprints like your IP. A layman cannot begin to take the anonymous digital route that easily; he has to depend on hosted services like disposable email IDs to anonymous remailing tools to remain a John Doe (or Jane Doe).
Sending an email without letting the recipient know can be used for a variety of non-malicious causes which make them really useful. Here are five for your consideration.
Hide your real email ID and fight spam
Few are aware that email addresses are deliberately harvested. Email harvesting is an “accepted” practice in the sense that there are online and software tools that can pluck publicly available email addressed from webpages, mailing lists, and discussion boards. But on the other side, email harvesting is used by spammers and used for bulk emailing. In many parts of the world, it has been deemed illegal, though your inbox will tell you otherwise.
To keep your inbox spam free (after questionable web signups), you can use services like Notsharingmy.info. A previous post takes a close look at how you can – Hide Your Real Email Address When You Do Web Signups With NotSharingMy.Info
Tell the bitter truth
Anonymous emails can be great for feedback – usually of the negative kind. It could range from something harmless but needed like telling a friend that he stinks, to telling your boss something he does not want to hear. Protecting your identity behind the anonymity of an untraceable email could be wise if the recipient has a history of taking bad news badly.
We took a look at 5 Websites For Self Improvement With Some Anonymous Feedback From Friends. AnonEmail is a simple text based anonymous email service. There are also other email based services like Send-Email and Voxopolis that allow you to send anonymous and secure messages.
For instance, Voxopolis is a tool for secure anonymous interactive messaging. Using its QuickVox service, you can send an anonymous email in 60 seconds flat. The free account also lets you attach images and videos to spice up your feedback, question, or survey. Voxopolis looks appealing because it carried a trusted certificate from TRUSTe. The slight annoyance is that to read an anonymous message, you have to register for an (free) account. But on the other hand, that helps to monitor and follow-up on the conversation with the nameless sender.
Be a whistleblower
Whistleblowers can escape persecution and harassment by using anonymous email services. It is the equivalent of a phone tip. Of course, to be taken seriously you should also supply credible proof to go with your complaint. With proof, an anonymous email can be a powerful vehicle of change. You can prevent a crime before it happens, report corruption, complain against bad civic services, tip off the media, foil child abuse …the reasons could go on.
Express your love
Saying “I love you” perhaps ranks among the more difficult things to express. You can break through the tongue-tied status quo by using an anonymous message service like Had To Say. Hadtosay.com is a very simple web app (not exactly an email service though) that lets you print out cards with a message ID and a PIN. The card can be printed out and delivered secretly. The message ID on the card allows the person to log into the site and view the special message you have left there. The recipient can choose to leave an answer below your message. (Directory mention)
Play a prank
Though the idea of using fake emails to play pranks seems a bit outdated to me, it could still raise a few laughs if the victim if naïve enough. I guess the rate at which people click emails from Nigeria and Bill Gates, suggests that there’s still a few out there who still can be led up a blind alley…but strictly for laughs. Give it a trial run before April with Anonymailer. You can use the anonymous email service to “impersonate” anyone you choose.
The only loophole I could see was the ad line that gets inserted in the email body. Just about halves the fun. I couldn’t find another similar service; if you do, do put it in the comments.
Check out the apps tagged as anonymous in our directory.
Anonymity has its uses. But it could be double-sided if used wrongly. Misuse of anonymous email services could lead to legal consequences. Research says that anonymous emails can also be tracked. But there are some benign uses of anonymous messages. What would be some of yours? Let us know the value you place on being anonymous.
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