Free Email

“My email provider shut down my account, gave me a support ticket number, but I have no way to look it up”
“Have you paid for your account?”
“No, it’s a free account”
“What type of SLA (service level agreement) do you have with them?”

This is a recent conversation I had regarding a so-called free email provider. I won’t pick on any specifically, this article applies to all of them. I’m not aware of any of the free email providers that are run as a volunteer organization. So how are they making money? There are a few options if you’re not paying for the service, the two most notable are advertising; providing third parties with your information, or the second which is selling your information to third parties. Some people are fine with this, for example, there are benefits to targeted advertising. However there is nothing I’m aware of that prevents your email provider, or a 3rd party advertiser, from providing your personal information and emails to say your employer, or insurance company.
One of the other things to think about regarding the free email providers is service level agreements. If you’re using your ISP for your email, then you’re paying for service, and can expect a published SLA. If you’re using a free service, what is there motivation to respond to you specifically in a timely manner?
I recommend to all of my clients they register a domain name to use as a permanent email address, or find a friend/techy that has done this. Then, no matter what ISP you use over the years, you can just have your email forward to that location.
Sounds like it’s time for you to check out the  privacy/disclosure policy on your email provider’s website, as well as your SLA with them. If you’re not happy with both, change to one you are happy with. Don’t hesitate to contact the privacy officer of an organization to enquire for anything not clearly defined in their policy.