How To Beat Spam with Disposable E-Mail Addresses

You’re registering online for the local 5K or you’re downloading that app your friend has been raving about and you get to the inevitable ‘required’ field on the Web form: “Please enter your e-mail address.” Suddenly that fun-run might not be quite so appealing. The cost of entry could include more spam, more privacy concerns, and more threats to a jealously guarded online identity.

Giving out your e-mail address is a very personal act, requiring a level of trust that is rarely reciprocated by the other party. Even if the organization your dealing with has strict privacy policies (and you can find them on the web site), you are completely at the mercy of their unknown – and often untested – security procedures.

Luckily there is alternative to giving out your online contact information (or turning into a digital recluse): the disposable e-mail address.

Disposable e-mail addresses are exactly what the name implies. They are e-mail addresses you use on a one-time only basis, discarding them when they have done their job and never worrying about who gets their hands on them or which databases they might end up in. If the company you’re dealing with sells one of these disposable addresses or their servers get hacked, you give an unconcerned shrug or, more likely, you’ve moved on and are completely unaware there was ever a problem.

Several companies are now offering various versions of this throwaway service. They include SpamexMailinator, and relative newcomer MailDrop. In keeping with the principle behind the service, MailDrop doesn’t ask for an e-mail log-in or, in fact, any kind of sign up. All you do is type in your chosen e-mail address and check the Inbox for activity.

Each MailDrop e-mail address uses the @maildrop.cc format, and the site recommends that you connect the e-mail address with whatever product or service you are registering for, so each address is unique and easy to remember. For example, I could use my pet’s name for all my disposable MailDrop addresses and then add the name of the service, so my fun-run e-mail address would be brodie.nyc5K@maildrop.cc and my app e-mail would be brodie.coolapp@maildrop.cc.

MailDrop stresses that its service does not guarantee privacy or security. In theory, another MailDrop user could choose exactly the same e-mail address and have access to your e-mail, but if you make your e-mail addresses complicated enough and you only use the service for non-sensitive material, there is little chance that a privacy breach would have any consequences.

Incoming MailDrop messages must be less than 100K in size and all attachments are discarded whatever the size. Each Inbox can only hold 10 messages and Inboxes that haven’t received a message in the last 24 hours are automatically cleared. MailDrop also employs its own spam filters to make sure that incoming mail is legitimate.

Disposable e-mail options are no substitute for the more established e-mail platforms but that’s not their purpose. If you are looking for a solution to the ever-expanding problem of intrusive Web forms, then disposable e-mail is a great way to move around online without opening the door to spam or putting your identity at risk.

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