Paying for email

I mentioned in my previous post that after my server crashed, I bought email hosting. I was talking to some friends about this and the general reaction was, “Why would you ever pay for email? Gmail is free!” It makes sense, right? Paying for email seems stupid, but I have a good reason.

Here is a short story:

Imagine two pigs are talking to each other. The first says, “Hey man, this is awesome! We get to live in this house for free.” The second replies, “Yea and they even feed us!” “We’ve got it great,” they conclude.

The pigs are, of course, at a slaughterhouse.

The moral of the story is that free is not always good. If you aren’t paying for something, you are the product. Gmail is free because Google wants your data. Ever notice how the ads within Gmail are triggered by keywords in your email? Facebook is the same way. They want to make it as painless as possible to create a Facebook account so that they can collect your data.

Is there anything wrong with that? I don’t think so. Data is the new currency. Rather than pay Facebook money to use the service, you give them your data. If you understand and acknowledge that transaction, I think it’s fine. I understand what I give Google by using Gmail and am not comfortable with it. So I pay a minuscule fee to a company whose entire ethos is respecting my privacy.

If I’m coming off as paranoid, consider this: What if someone told you they were going to knock a few bucks off of your cell phone bill and the only catch is that they would listen to a couple of your phone calls. Is that creepy? What if that person offered to pay some of your mortgage/rent if you let them look into your windows a few times a day? Those examples are obvious exaggerations, but to me the principle is the same. My privacy is worth more than that to me.

If you use Gmail with PGP though, you have gamed the system. But who has that many friends using PGP?