Sunday, 21 October 2007

Email privacy & security: Web forms, anti-spam etc

One great way to fight e-mail spam and preserve your privacy and security is to use a "disposable email address" or DEA service. I use it all the time, but at mediaCamp yesterday I was interested that even a very savvy high powered techie there hadn't heard of Spamgourmet.

So I thought it was time to mention again a time-saving and blood-pressure relieving tip, and point you to an old but sometime popular post of mine on Spamgourmet. I've been using their service for a few years now.

Basically, with Spamgourmet you can have your own unique username at Spamgourmet for emails, like "youruniquename" (it'll be whatever you entered as your username when you signed up with Spamgourmet).

When you have to give your email address to someone, e.g. filling in a form on the Web like on the Amazon site, you can just enter as your email address something like "". That's a DEA, and you can have as many DEAs as you like usually. Another DEA might be "", another might be "", you get the drift I'm sure.

You don't even have to create a DEA before you can use it in a form, just use it or give it out - everything with "" will reach you.

More good stuff:
  • Emails sent to that address will be forwarded by Spamgourmet to your real email address, almost instantly usually.
  • After 3 emails are sent to that address, Spamgourmet just gobbles them up (hence the name) - you won't ever have to see any email from that site or person again.
  • But you can change the default setting so that you can receive up to 20 emails per DEA before emails get eaten.
  • You can "top up" the 20 by another up to 20 if you need to receive more emails at that DEA.
  • You can change the number of emails allowed for each address you give out (again max 20), e.g. if you give someone the address "" you'll get only 10 emails from whoever uses that address before the emails are eaten.
  • You can set "trusted senders" by their email address or domain, who can send you any number of emails without affecting the "eat now" count.
  • You can set an "exclusive sender" per DEA to always allow email to a particular DEA from the sender whose address you enter. This works if you always want to get email sent to a particular mailing list (put the mailing list address in, i.e. who the emails are sent TO to send to every on that list, as the "exclusive sender").
  • If sites don't let you sign up with "" (and there are some stupid sites which do that, I hate them, it just inconveniences the user for no good reason), well you can get around it by using another alternative - provide a few other domain names that you can use.
  • You can even, with a few clicks etc (you have to sign in to Spamgourmet to do this), SEND email to others which to them will appear to be from, and when you reply to their reply your reply automatically will have that DEA as the "From" address too, you don't have to do anything more.
  • There are features you can turn on to provide extra protection too, if you find that people are making up email addresses for your Spamgourmet account and sending you junk, e.g.
  • You'll know which site shafted you by selling your email address to marketers and spammers if you start getting email sent to "" - if you use the site or service's name for the first part of the address as I do, and make sure you don't use it for addresses you give to other sites, then the first part of the DEA tells all.
  • Spamgourmet let you create more than one username/account, e.g. I use one for this blog, and another for my "real" name. You could have one for work, and one for home. And so on.
Really, there seems to be nothing the Spamgourmet team haven't thought of. (Note that "address masking" is known to be pretty effective as an anti-spam device, but you can't use it when you fill in a webform, only when you display your email address on a website or give it in an email or messageboard etc. Gmail aliases also work well, but they don't have the extra features for anti-spam protection that Spamgourmet does, plus some badly-set up websites won't accept a + in an email address even though it's technically permitted - so for those sites I use Spamgourmet).

What's more, Spamgourmet is free; they make some money from ads when you login to send email from a DEA. (I've donated, it's one of the few free services I use enough that I think I ought to - Spybot is another - and I try to make sure I check out some of their advertisers everytime I login).

There's a howto and more detailed instructions and in my original Spamgourmet review.

So if you've not tried Spamgourmet before, do - you won't regret it.


ffflaneur said...

thanks for the tasty tip!

Improbulus said...

And very belated thank you for the comment!

(It's commenting day..)