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anonymous email

How to send an anonymous email

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No email service is completely anonymous. Learn how to send an email as anonymously as possible using private email, aliases, and a VPN or Tor.

Do you need to send an email without revealing who you are? Unfortunately, you can’t just sign up for a free service, like Gmail or Outlook, with fake personal details. That’s because services like Gmail track your every move online(new window) and your IP address(new window), which can be linked to your location and identity.

However, using a private email service with other privacy tools gives you the best chance of sending an email while hiding your identity. Here’s how.

What is an anonymous email?
Why send an anonymous email?
How to send an anonymous email
Get end-to-end encrypted email
Hide your IP address and online activity
Use a hide-my-email alias
Remove personal information
Stay private with Proton Mail
Anonymous email FAQs

What is an anonymous email?

An anonymous email is one sent without revealing the identity or personal information of the sender, but no email service is 100% anonymous. That’s because email relies on identifying information, like metadata(new window) and IP addresses, to work.

An encrypted email service, like Proton Mail, gives you highly secure, private email out of the box. However, privacy is not the same as anonymity(new window)

  • Privacy means keeping certain things to yourself and controlling who you share them with. For example, you don’t share intimate details about your health with work colleagues, but you do share them with your doctor. And of course, your doctor knows your identity.
  • Anonymity means hiding your identity. People can see what you do but don’t know who you are. For example, you may post a message on social media using a pseudonym.

No email service alone can guarantee your anonymity. But using a private, secure email service with other privacy tools gives you the best chance of sending an email while hiding your identity.

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Why send an anonymous email?

There are many legitimate reasons why you might want to send an anonymous email, for example:

  • You’re a political activist under a repressive regime and want to speak out.
  • You’re a journalist or whistleblower and need to protect yourself and your sources.
  • You want to avoid being tracked(new window) by internet service providers (ISPs), Big Tech companies, marketers, or governments.
  • You prefer to sign up for online communities without revealing your real name.

The greater the level of risk you face, the more tools you should use to keep your emails as anonymous as possible.

How to send an anonymous email

Here’s how to send an email with a high degree of anonymity. You may not need all these measures, depending on your threat model(new window).

Get end-to-end encrypted email

First, create a new email account with a private email service, like Proton Mail. You don’t need to give any personally identifiable information(new window) to sign up for Proton Mail. Moreover, we collect no data linked to your identity, as the Proton Mail App Store privacy label shows:

Proton Mail privacy label in Apple's App Store showing that Proton Mail collects no data linked to your identity
Proton Mail iOS privacy label

Proton Mail also uses end-to-end encryption(new window), meaning your message is encrypted on your device and can only be decrypted by the person you write to. If a third party intercepts your message, they won’t be able to read it. And we store all emails (including messages to and from non-Proton Mail users) using zero-access encryption(new window), so no one but you can access them — not even us. 

But remember two caveats if you want to remain anonymous.

First, like any email service, Proton Mail has access to metadata in email headers(new window) (like sender/recipient and subject lines) because we couldn’t deliver messages without it. This metadata is protected by strict Swiss privacy laws. Yet Proton Mail can be compelled to share metadata (but not message contents or attachments) with law enforcement if presented with a valid Swiss court order regarding criminal activity against Swiss law. 

Second, if you’re breaking Swiss law, a law-abiding company like Proton Mail can be legally compelled to log your IP address. Your ISP or mobile operator assigns your IP address to you, so emails can be traced to individuals(new window) through their IP address.

So if you want to send an email that can’t be traced to you, you must hide your IP address.

Hide your IP address and online activity

Use Proton Mail with a virtual private network (VPN)(new window) to mask your IP address. A VPN encrypts your internet connection and shows the IP address of the VPN server instead. But the VPN service can see your real IP address, so choosing a VPN you can trust, like Proton VPN(new window), is crucial. Under current Swiss law, Proton VPN can’t be compelled to log user activity.

For even greater anonymity, use Proton Mail with the Tor anonymity network. When you connect to the internet via Tor, your internet traffic is encrypted and routed through a worldwide volunteer network of relays that conceal your original IP address and online activity. 

Use a hide-my-email alias

Sending an email with an email alias(new window) gives you another layer of anonymity. By using an email aliasing service like SimpleLogin by Proton(new window), you can create anonymous aliases for different purposes, masking your main personal email address.

However, SimpleLogin still knows your personal email address because it forwards your emails to that address, so using SimpleLogin doesn’t hide your identity from SimpleLogin.

Remove personal information

You obviously shouldn’t include any personally identifiable information in an anonymous email. Don’t include your real name or information traceable to you in your email address or subject line.

But what about attachments, which can contain metadata related to your identity? Removing identifying information, such as EXIF data(new window) in photos, is good practice. However, Proton Mail encrypts all message contents and attachments in end-to-end encrypted messages, so there is no need.

Stay private with Proton Mail

The most secure and private email services, like Proton Mail, are often described as “anonymous”. But as we’ve seen above, no email service can guarantee anonymity.

Email anonymity is like a spectrum. At one extreme, “free” services like Gmail make you pay with your privacy(new window), harvesting vast amounts of data linked to your identity. At the other, Proton Mail, whose business is to protect your privacy, collects none (except in rare cases when ordered by a Swiss court).

With Proton Mail, you get:

All this makes Proton Mail private and highly secure but doesn’t guarantee anonymity. However, by using Proton Mail with SimpleLogin aliases and Proton VPN or Tor, you can send an email with a high degree of anonymity.

At Proton, we’re working to give everyone privacy and security online. So whether you need anonymity or just want email that respects your privacy(new window), join us and stay secure!

Anonymous email FAQs

Is Proton Mail anonymous?

No email service can be 100% anonymous because email relies on identifying information to be delivered. But Proton Mail allows you to sign up without giving any personally identifiable information. It also provides end-to-end encryption, meaning only you and the intended recipient of your message can read it. By using Proton Mail with aliases and a VPN or Tor, you can send a message with a high degree of anonymity.

Learn more about what Proton Mail can and can’t protect you from(new window)

Is Gmail anonymous?

No, Gmail isn’t anonymous because you must give personally identifiable information to sign up for the service. Even if you give fake personal information, Gmail gathers huge amounts of your personal data as you use it.

Learn more about Gmail security and privacy(new window)

Can you use email anonymously?

While you can’t guarantee anonymity when using email, you can send an email with a high chance of concealing your identity if you use a private email service, like Proton Mail, email aliases, and a VPN or Tor, depending on your threat model(new window).

What is the difference between private email and anonymous email?

The terms “private email” and “anonymous email” are often used interchangeably to describe end-to-end encrypted email services like Proton Mail. However, privacy differs from anonymity: Anonymity means hiding your identity; privacy means keeping some things to yourself, including your actions.

Learn more about anonymity vs. privacy(new window)

Is there such a thing as an untraceable email?

You can’t guarantee complete anonymity and untraceability when you send an email. But you can take steps to hide your identity.

Learn more about how emails can be traced(new window)

Does Gmail reveal your IP address?

By default, Gmail automatically hides your IP address when you send a message. The recipient of your message usually sees the IP address of a Gmail server instead. However, if you use Gmail through an email client, your IP address may be inserted in the message, depending on your client.

Like all email providers, Gmail (Google) can see your IP address, and because of how much data Google collects, Google can usually link your Gmail with your real-life identity.

Can you hide your email address when sending an email?

When you send an email, the recipient can see your address in the “From” field. You can mask your main personal address by using a temporary address, for example, using an email aliasing service like SimpleLogin by Proton(new window). However, SimpleLogin still knows your personal email address as it needs to know this information to forward your emails.

Secure your emails, protect your privacy
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Harry Bone(new window)

A long-standing privacy advocate, Harry worked as a translator and writer in a range of industries, including a stint in Moscow monitoring the Russian media for the BBC. He joined Proton to promote privacy, security, and freedom for everyone online.

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