I want to correspond with an inmate in prison, like on Death Row as a pen
pal, but I want to remain anonymous for security reasons. Will my IP tell where
I live? If I go to my local library, open a new email account on their public
computer and use this, when I send and receive email, will I remain anonymous
In this excerpt from
Answercast #71, I look at creating anonymous emails and how safe that might
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Send email securely
Well, I actually have an article on “Sending anonymous
email.” It’s pretty short, but it boils down to pretty much what you are
suggesting you do at the public library.
Go somewhere that isn’t your home;
Create a completely new, free email account using Hotmail or Gmail or Yahoo
or any of the other free email account services;
Make sure that all of the information you enter is fake;
And then use that to send whatever email you’re trying to send.
IP address identification
Now, I will say, the IP address doesn’t identify you specifically
in most cases. It is very difficult for someone (and I would assume extremely
difficult for someone behind bars) to identify who specifically is at a
specific IP address.
That being said, if there is ever legal reason to figure that out, then yes,
the authorities of course can go to the ISP and find out who was at that IP
address at that particular time – and at least, get it to the home or the place
where that IP address terminates. Whether or not that is enough to identify you
is totally unclear.
Even libraries (depending on your level of paranoia)… what an IP would
allow them to do is say that, “Yes, somebody at this library, at this time,
sent a piece of email.”
Even though all of your email information is faked, the IP address of the
library is still in the email message. Like I said, depending on your level of
paranoia and level of safety you need to take for this, security cameras at the
library could synchronize with the times on the emails and potentially show
them who you are.
So, be careful when sending anonymous email.
I almost always recommend against it. There are definitely important times
when it’s useful to do so. Exactly how far you have to go and how anonymous
you need to remain really depends on the specific situation of not only who
you are talking with – but what you’re talking about and your own personal
So, I would certainly start by going to someplace other than your home,
create this fake account, and use that.
2 comments on “How can I protect my security when corresponding by email?”
What prison allows death-row inmates access to computers?
A browser proxy could be used, like JonDo or Tor on home computer. But they have their issues, too (e.g., proper configuration, traffic slowdown). Unlike others, Gmail can be set to run under https at all times, and keeps a brief history of logins, which might also be helpful. One needs to bear in mind, though, that nothing is impenetrable – pace Petraeus. Privacy as well as anonymity are only nominal concepts in this world.