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Should You Pay for Email?


Given that you can get Gmail for free with a huge amount of storage space for life and two-factor authentication, why would you want to pay for email? Well, if you're a cheapskate like me, you wouldn't. But there are reasons that you might choose to shell out the money.

If you're living in China, you may have heard that Google has turned over all of its data on Chinese residents to the Chinese government. So, if you want to talk bad about the Chinese government, or you're having an affair with the daughter of someone in the politburo, or you worry that something you may have said may be misinterpreted, you may want an email provider that encrypts your email and stores it outside of China. The same applies if you're in the mafia anywhere in the world. Or you may just be incensed that you don't have any privacy anymore, even in the western countries, and you want to tweak the NSA's nose. Come to think of it, why wouldn't anyone want to make the NSA spend hundreds of thousands of dollars decrypting an email about their lunch plans? I could go for that myself. Okay, I've changed my mind!

Just kidding. That might be fun, but I don't think it's worth a few dollars a month. Just $5 a month comes out to be $600 over ten years. I think I'd rather spend that money on something else. Besides I can encrypt my email myself for free with some program like Truecrypt. And encrypting things myself is better than relying on a provider to do it, because that way I can absolutely know that even my provider can't read it.

But if you aren't a cheapskate like me, and you regularly send encrypted email--who knows why--you might feel that it's more convenient to use a service like ProtonMail that encrypts it automatically and stores it in Switzerland. However, you may want to remember that this only works with other people who use ProtonMail, because once it goes into an inbox in some other country, the NSA has access to it (though in encrypted form).

So, the only people I can think of who may want to pay for email are people who: are planning on committing a crime, are paranoid, want to tweak the NSA's nose, or are incensed that their privacy rights are being trampled. I can only identify with the last group--but not enough to pay for email. Okay, maybe journalists and lawyers and other people whose companies make them use encrypted email may be candidates too. But in those cases, they wouldn't be paying out of their own pockets.


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