NOTE: This is an update to an article I published several months ago. I have added a couple of new encrypted email services to the list. If you know of other such services that should be added to this list, please post a comment below.
“Free” email services like Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and Hotmail come at a high price: your privacy. The fine print lets them search every message you send and receive for profit‐generating keywords. They even keep their own copies of your deleted messages and your attachments. Furthermore, your emails can pass through servers all over the world as plain-text messages, where they’re vulnerable to hackers and mass‐surveillance programs.
The governmental spying on citizens’ private email messages has been a problem for years. However, the problem has gained a lot more publicity in recent months. We now know that various US government agencies and presumably the United Kingdom’s GCHQ can obtain copies of nearly every email message you and I send or receive.
The only exception we know of is the various email services with offices and email servers located outside the United States and outside of the United Kingdom that offer encrypted email services. Most of these safe and secure services are based in countries where national laws prohibit any kind of email snooping, even when the snooping is done by governments. The use of encryption means that government agencies and civilian hackers alike cannot read your messages.