There are a few things to consider that may not be so immediately obvious:
- Choose a hard-to-guess email address.
Read about guessing email addresses to see why.
- Don’t use your private address in usenet newsgroups.
Use a fake address. Have people reply by posting back to the group. That’s the whole idea of newsgroups anyway.
- Don’t do any "forward-to-all" chain letters.
Have you ever received one of those "funny" stories, pictures, etc. that apparently already have been forwarded 100 times? Everytime it’s been forwarded, the sender sent it to all her/his friends and since the To: and Cc: headers get copied along with the actual message, the message carries more and more valid email addresses with it everytime it gets forwarded. A malicious person could "harvset" hundreds of valid email addresses from just one such chain letter! There are automatic tools that make address extraction from such messages very easy. You don’t want your address to be one of them. Ask your friends NOT to include you in such forwardings and don’t mass-forward anything yourself!
- Don’t post your address on your website.
Again, there are automatic tools that crawl the web, jump from site to site and collect all email addresses they find. If you have to post your contact email, either turn the text into a picture or simply use one of your new
- Don’t open eGreetingcards that well-meaning friends send you and that require you to go to some website to see it.
Think about how this works: A friend who knows your private email address goes to some website and creates an eCard for you. To send it to you he enters your email into the website. The website sends you a message saying that there is this card waiting for you and to see it you should click this link. If you click – boom, you just confirmed to that website that your address is really valid and that someone there is opening and reading email.
- For the same reason, don’t use your private address on info sharing services etc.
There are firms like Plaxo.com, who offer to always keep your address book up-to-date by having your contacts fill in their own information. The idea is that you will immediately see when they changed anything. The problem is that firms like Plaxo, obviously maintain a large online database of all their customers’ contacts and you have no idea what the firm does with this info. How many dotcom firms have you seen go bust in recent years? What if the service you use goes bankrupt, gets acquired or merged? What happens to the data – a valuable asset? Best solution: avoid.
- Optional Bonus: Use a VPN. This won’t help much keep your email address private, but it shields you from getting tracked by IP address, which helps keep your identity and location private and makes it harder to track you across the Internet.