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Depending on the level of anonymity and privacy desired, there are some easy ways to obtain an anonymous email address. The simplest way is to sign up for one of the large, free email services without revealing any true identifying information. This email is not completely anonymous, however, because the originating computer’s address is saved. There also are anonymous email services online that claim to delete information about their users or scramble their computer addresses. Finally, if just sending an anonymous email is important, then using a remailer is effective.
Large, popular email services might seem like they could provide an anonymous email address, but they store the addresses of computers that use their services, meaning someone somewhere knows the owner of the related email address. This is done partly for their own security and partly to track users' Internet activity for marketing purposes. Although someone might not immediately know who sent them email from such a service, a determined or knowledgeable user will be able to figure out its origins.
Some online email providers say they provide a secure, anonymous email address service. They do this by attempting to delete the user’s computer address and by constantly cycling the address of their own proxy servers. This would make emails appear as if they were coming from different locations and could thwart automatic spam filters. This is a more anonymous method than other large services, but it still can be effectively traced.
Even more anonymous are temporary or disposable email address providers. These services provide a temporary, anonymous email address that will either expire after a certain time or will continually delete emails and access logs. While these can be very secure, a direct link still exists between their servers and the sending computer.
One of the only ways to be able to send potentially truly anonymous emails is to use a remailer. Remailers are online programs that accept an email anonymously and then forward it to the target address. They are secure because there is no return address in the email and no link remains between the original sender and the email. The drawback is that there is no secure way for the recipient to reply to the anonymous email.
One added problem with remailers, as with other services, is that they still have information on the servers that could potentially link the sending computer to the email server. The best way to send an email that must remain anonymous and secure is to use a series of remailers in sequence. This involves sending emails from one remailer to another, and then to a third or fourth. This effectively obfuscates the trail between the sender and the recipient.