Using Mailvelope to Keep Emails Private with PGP Encryption

by Tracy Knauer •

Using an email provider that doesn’t track you is one way to help protect your email privacy. But that’s only half the battle. Encrypting your email is also important. Here’s how to do it using Mailvelope.

Mailvelope is an email encryption tool that uses PGP to prevent unauthorized access to email content. PGP is the gold standard of email encryption, but it’s a complex tool that’s difficult to set up on its own – especially if you use Web-based email services.

Mailvelope’s value lies in offering a user-friendly way of adding PGP protection to your email. It’s a browser extension that can be easily installed on Firefox and Chrome, and it has preconfigured options to work with Gmail, Yahoo Mail, GMX and Outlook.com email. It can also be configured manually to support almost any other email service.

Once installed, Mailvelope provides an option to encrypt an email using a PGP key before you send it. To open an encrypted message, the recipient needs to have a corresponding key that you share with him.

By encrypting email messages, Mailvelope prevents third parties from reading them while they are in transit or stored on a server. It can also make it more difficult for email providers to track you in order to deliver ads. Without the encryption key, even providers won’t be able to read the content of your messages.

On the other hand, it’s important to keep in mind that someone could still read your messages while you are composing them or after you have opened them inside the Web browser. If content appears in plaintext in the browser, it’s as easy for a third party to access as the content of any other websites you have open.

SSL encryption of your email page provides some protection in the latte situation. But it won’t stop an email provider itself from reading your message, since the provider would have access to the SSL key that it uses to encrypt the Web page.

That said, Mailvelope is an easy-to-use tool for adding another layer of privacy to email. It’s not flawless, but it can’t hurt if you want to stay more private online.

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