How to Migrate Out of Gmail and Reclaim Your Privacy

How To Leave Gmail Reclaim Privacy Hero

Gmail, just like all Google products, is terrible for your privacy. It’s also just about the best webmail service you can find. So most of us are willing to put up with some data mining for the sake of spam-free email that’s easy to read and send. But as tech companies like Facebook have repeatedly fumbled the privacy football, users are growing uncomfortable with the privacy they’ve surrendered, all in exchange for social media and communication platforms.

While Google says they stopped scanning user emails in 2017, they still permit third-party apps to scan your emails when approved by the user. If you’re starting to think about migrating out of Gmail, here’s the easiest way to separate from the Google mothership and reclaim your privacy with the least amount of pain.

1. Establish a New Private Email Address

Make sure you select an email service that respects your privacy. There’s a very good chance you’ll need to pay for that respect. Nearly all free webmail services we know of use the data from your email for advertising purposes. The only free accounts we’ve seen that don’t siphon data are the trial-sized accounts for more private services, but those won’t be robust enough to serve as a primary email account. We recommend you check out ProtonMail for safe email outside the territory of the Five Eyes.

2. Forward Specific Mail from Your Old Address (with a Proxy, Optionally)

If directly sharing your email with Google bothers you, set up an anonymous account on another service and use it like a proxy. As long as you trust the service to erase the records of your communications once forwarded, you’ll have nothing to fear.

1. Click on the cog in the upper-right of your Gmail homepage and select “Settings” from the drop-down.

How To Leave Gmail Reclaim Privacy Set Forwarding Address 1

2. Click “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” at the top of the page.

How To Leave Gmail Reclaim Privacy Set Forwarding Address 2

3. In the first section, “Forwarding”, click the radio button next to “Forward a copy of incoming mail to” and enter your forwarding address.

4. In the second drop-down under “Forwarding,” choose “Delete Gmail’s copy.”

5. Click “Save Changes” at the bottom of the page to commit to your changes.

3. Change Email Addresses for Web Accounts

This is the most tedious step: You’ll want to change your login email for any accounts that use your Gmail. If you don’t, you’ll need to keep the Gmail account active perpetually for the sake of forgotten password emails. Of course, you can do that. An empty inbox doesn’t give Google any meaningful data about your life, but a trickle of newsletters and outdated autocomplete addresses will likely make sure your email account receives at least some mail for as long as its active.

The longer you’ve used the account, the more difficult it will be to shut off all incoming emails. Even if you unsubscribe from everything with perfect diligence, email list suppliers won’t just stop selling your address. The interest-based lists you end up on can be a rich source of information for Google about events it might not have been able to capture otherwise.

4. Migrate Third-Party Google Account Sign-ins

If you’ve used Google to sign in to other websites with your Google account (sometimes called an OAuth login), you’ll need to migrate those accounts to an email-address-based account before you can shutter your Google account for good. Depending on the service, you might find that such migration is impossible, and you instead need to establish a new account.

This is not by accident: the primary purpose of the “Sign in with Google” system is to harvest information about you on third-party sites. But a close second is to increase your reliance on Google services and make it even harder to migrate from it. So when you catch yourself saying, “Eh, forget it, I’ll just leave the account open,” make sure you’re considering who wants you to make that decision.

5. Set an Auto-Responder (Optional)

If you’re making your change of address public, then a Contacts-only autoresponder can be helpful. To set up an autoresponder that only replies to your existing Gmail contacts, follow the instructions below:

1. Click on the settings cog on your Gmail inbox page, then choose “Settings” from the drop-down menu.

2. Scroll to the bottom of the page to the vacation responder section and write your vacation responder.

3. Tick the box next to “Only send a response to people in my Contacts” to avoid updating spammers.

How To Leave Gmail Reclaim Privacy Set Autoresponder

4. Set the expiration date for an appropriate period, such as a year.

How To Leave Gmail Reclaim Privacy Set Expiration Date

5. Click “Save Changes” at the bottom of the page to commit to your changes.

6. Close Your Google Account

We strongly recommend you download a copy of your personal data before deleting your Google Account. This operation will make your data permanently inaccessible.

When you’re ready to delete your Google account, follow these steps.

1. Log in to your Google account.

2. Click “Data & personalization” on the left pane.

3. Navigate to the “Download, delete, or make a plan for your data” panel. Click “Delete a service or your account.”

4. Under “Delete your Google Account,” click “Delete your account.”

Conclusion

The procedure to leave Gmail behind and migrate to another more private and secure email service is easy. What makes it hard is the effort you need to put in to get it done, especially if you owned the Gmail account for a long time and used it for all your other accounts logins. Nevertheless, taking the effort to get out of Google’s clutches is still worth it in the long term.

One comment

  1. The basic fallacy of “migrating out of GMail and regaining your privacy” is that once you used GMail, you CANNOT regain your privacy. The bell cannot be unrung, virginity can only be lost once and you cannot make Google/GMail forget all that it knows about you. Yes, you can switch to a webmail service such as Proton Mail and not allow Google to read your future mails, but whatever Google has learned about you in the past, they will retain.

    “if you owned the Gmail account for a long time and used it for all your other accounts logins”
    I have had a GMail account since shortly after Google opened up GMail to the general public. I have never used my GMail account to log into other accounts. My problem is that I cannot all the places I have left my GMail address. Even after I migrate out of GMail, I will be getting email at my GMail address. GMail may forward those emails to me but only for a certain period of time.

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