Are Temporary Emails Safe?
Ah, yes. The age-old question. "Are temporary emails safe?"
Ok, so maybe it's not the age-old question, but it's a common question none-the-less.
The safety of temporary, disposable email in a nutshell
If you've ever wondered how safe temporary email was, hopefully this article will help shed some light on the subject.
Before we begin, let me give you a brief overview of how temporary email, aka, "temp mail" works.
A temporary email service offers you an email address that's designed to be disposed of. In other words, an email address that is used one, then discarded.
The idea behind temp mail is to have a throw away email address to use on websites that might be known for excessive spamming or solicitation, thus, you'd use a temporary email account instead of your primary account.
By doing so, you can sign up, register, or otherwise access whatever it was you need to access using an email address that you can walk away from.
So then, are temporary emails safe?
Now you know a basic understanding of temporary e-mail, we can get to the point.
Are they actually safe?
Well, the answer is both yes and no.
You see, temporary email itself can be as safe as any other permanent email service in the sense that the transmission between parties is exactly the same. An email is sent from one party to another. Nothing here is new.
The most important difference between temporary email and permanent email is this:
- Permanent email accounts require registering for an account - Temporary email accounts do not.
The idea behind most quality temporary email services is to keep the user anonymous. In order to keep the user 100% anonymous, there cannot be any kind of user registration.
The way temp mail services handle this is simply generating a temporary e-mail address when you visit the site, no questions asked.
This e-mail address is ready to use right out of the box and can start accepting emails immediately.
But you never answered the question. Are temporary email addresses safe?
Generating temporary email
Most temporary email services generate a (somewhat) random temporary email address when you visit the site. The next user who visits will get another random address.
This is normal, and in itself a safe concept. But, as with any computer generated object, there is no way to guarantee uniqueness. More about this later.
Manually setting an email username
Aside from a random generated temp mail address, most sites offer the ability to actually set, or change, your own address. For instance, you can set firstname.lastname@example.org as your address.
This is a great feature, and in itself completely safe, but I think you might know where I am going with this.
The safety of temporary email
Let's summarize what we've talked about so far.
- Temporary email is a "no registration required" system
- Temporary email generates random email addresses on the fly
- Temporary email usually allows you to set your own username
If you add all of these together, you end up in a situation with a chance for duplication.
Let's go over temporary email duplication and why it might not be safe.
Temporary email duplication
Duplication is when another user ends up with the same address that you use.
In a typical permanent email address scenario, it's impossible, because no two users can share the same email address. In a temp mail situation, it's possible, and sometimes even common.
While automatically generated emails are considered pretty safe due to the chances of two users getting the same address is very slim, it's not impossible.
In the situation of a user setting their own address, the chances become much more realistic. For example, two people named rob might choose the temporary email address email@example.com
When this happens, both users will see each others emails. This is unsafe, but also common in the temporary email world.
How to stay safe
In order to stay safe with temporary email, there are a few simple rules to follow. Let's go over them.
Rule #1 - Never use temporary email for sensitive emails
This is by far the most important rule!
If you are using a free temporary email service, do not use it to submit your tax returns, get a mortgage loan or anything remotely similar to something that might require any kind of sensitive information.
Rule #2 - If you want safety, get safe
What I mean by this is, if you need a temporary email address for the long haul, something you know for sure nobody will ever stumble upon, simply select a username to something nobody else will ever end up with.
A UUID, for example, is perfect for this.
There is a very, and I'm talking next to impossible chance someone else will end up with firstname.lastname@example.org if you chose it. (Don't use that example, obviously).
FakerMail allows you to set your username to something easy and memorable like email@example.com (can be guessed by others, but easy to remember if you don't care) or something tough like a UUID in the example above.
Rule #3 - Use a service that's actually temporary
Some temporary email services keep your emails around for a while. Some keep them around forever. While this might not be an issue when you signed up for a random recipe, it could potentially be an issue if you signed up for Facebook, or something similar.
FakerMail deletes each message after 10 minutes.
So if you forget to manually delete your old Reddit registration email, we'll simply do it for you after 10 minutes.
This means that if someone stumbles across your old inbox, they won't see anything at all because we've already taken care of cleaning it up for you and they won't be the wiser.
Hopefully I've answered the common question, "Are temporary emails safe?".
To be honest, I'd rather not sugar coat it and lie to you. As someone who has created a temporary email service, I'd love to tell you it's all kittens and rainbows, but it's not.
I genuinely feel that if you are smart and follow these few simple rules, temporary email, from us, or anyone else can be just as safe if not safer than traditional permanent email.