Privacy Tip #2: Mailinator

Companies are really fond of collecting information from you they don’t really need before letting you read their website, check out demos, and download free-as-in-beer software. Occasionally they ask for this for free-as-in-speech software. One technique they use to make sure you give them your information is to e-mail you your username or password or license key. That way, even if the user is named “Barney Rubble” they’ve got a pretty good idea of your real e-mail address.

Certainly you good set up a free account on HotMail or GMail, and use that to register. However that takes time and effort. If you use the account more than once, they can cross-correlate your registrations on different sites. There is, however, a better solution: Mailinator.

Paul Tyma’s Mailinator is based around a really simple idea. It’s a web mail server that accepts any e-mail from anyone. No prior registration is required. You don’t have to tell Mailinator the e-mail address exists. When mail shows up for BarneyRubble@mailinator.com, the server accepts it. To check your mail just got to the mailinator web site and ask it for BarneyRubble’s e-mail. Your registration credentials will be waiting for you.

This is about as simple as it could possibly be. There’s no password, no registration, nothing to get in your way. Messages are only stored for 24 hours after they arrive, so do in check in soon, though.

The only caveat is that anyone who knows your e-mail address can also read your mail, so don’t use it for personal e-mail, and/or pick a really weird e-mail address like SimildudeXLink23@mailinator.com. This isn’t intended to replace PGP for private e-mail, but it does a great job of keeping your private information out of the hands of spammy corporations.

8 Responses to “Privacy Tip #2: Mailinator”

  1. Dan Says:

    Any web-sites that require an email address can also start rejecting ones that have “mailinator.com” in them.

    Then what?

  2. Wouter Says:

    Hotmail is rejected too on some sites. For these cases the solution is just to pick an obscure free email account or forwarding service. A company would have to be pretty determined to block a substantial number of these services. At that point you know that they prioritize inconveniencing (savvy) customers over providing value, which means you no longer have to try their demo’s to know the quality of their software.

    PS. A tip for the companies who do this: Make me trust you, if you want my real email-address.

  3. Elliotte Rusty Harold Says:

    It’s certainly possible a company could block Mailinator addresses for registration. In practice I’ve never encountered one that did this. Mailinator itself says:

    Every now and then you bump into a website that does not permit email addresses at mailinator.com (scoundrels!). Don’t fret. There is more than one domain pointing to the mailinator system. If you send email to one of the listed alternate domains – it will come to mailinator.com just as if you sent it directly. For example, stinky@mailinator.com is EXACTLY the same as stinky@fakeinformation.com. Other alternate domains include sogetthis.com, mailinater.com, and fakeinformation.com

    If these got blocked too, they could always add another.

  4. JP Says:

    Mytrashmail.com provides a very similar service and is not associated with Mailinator.

  5. howie Says:

    Paul Tyma’s Mailinator service has been around for several years now and in that time I’ve come across many websites that block it, including some of my own. If it’s blocked, then it can’t be used, but I suspect that if the day ever comes when it’s typically blocked then either Tyma or someone else will fill the void.

  6. hashbee Says:

    pourri.fr (don’t get misleaded by the .fr, it’s in english also) is also a Mailinator like service, its domain name may be less banned from websites.

  7. Vitamin B Says:

    Thank God we still live in a world where you can get internet privacy, even if it comes at a price. Since we the people have been deemed unworthy to maintain our own internet privacy, what has the world come to?

  8. Jenn Says:

    If this email is deleted in 24 hours, is there still a record of it that can be traced?

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