The digital carnage continues as yet another online service shuts down rather than face NSA scrutiny. Fearing for its email security, the legal site Groklaw shut its doors on Tuesday, but not before offering a very valuable recommendation: an email service that’s out of reach of government goons.
If you’re worried about the spooks reading your email, take Groklaw founder Pamela Jones’s advice and check out Kolab. This 10-year-old open source groupware developer is everything that Gmail is not. Its email and calendar services are completely secure, so your private data will never be crawled. That means there’s no robot pulling keywords out of your emails to serve you more relevant ads, and in Kolab’s own words, your data “can not be accessed by spy programs such as PRISM, so there will be no spying.”
The fun doesn’t stop there. One of the key features of Kolab is the fact that they store all client data on a physical server bank in Switzerland, a country with some of the best privacy laws and data security in the world. Kolab proudly points out on its website that there were only 20 cases of real-time internet wiretapping in Switzerland last year — an amount that’s basically negligible compared to the NSA’s sweeping surveillance programs in the United States — and Kolab meanwhile received no requests from data during the same time period. Kolab promises never to sell your data but makes everything easily downloadable by you from the organisation’s servers.
There are a couple of downsides and missing features. For one, Kolab doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption services which, to be fair, is tough to do for email. (Gmail doesn’t offer encryption either.) However, the organisation explains in its FAQ that it’s chosen not to do server-side encryption is that it’s impossible to do so without giving the provider access to the data. They do suggest some email programs like Thunderbird that do support encryption. Another downside is the cost. Kolab’s webmail service is not free, although at $US10 a month, it’s not very expensive either.
Really, it all comes down to how you want to protect your data. Now that we know Google’s been working with the NSA and other secure email services like Lavabit and Silent Circle have folded to pressure from the NSA, there aren’t many options left for secure email. So it might cost you a buck or two and you might have to seek out some features it doesn’t offer, but Kolab’s email service is one of your best options. Think of it this way: The servers are literally nestled in the safe and neutral mountains of Switzerland. You don’t get much more secure than that.