What an e-mail address reveals about its sender
Anyone who wants to be active on the Internet needs it, the e-mail address. Whether you are shopping, making inquiries, booking or registering for an account on a protected homepage – it is indispensable for all these activities. However, anyone who thinks they are anonymous, for example in order to be able to write their own contributions in an Internet forum with an alias, with which they cannot be associated afterwards because the name is protected by an e-mail address and password, is mistaken.
What does the e-mail address reveal, and what can happen if it falls into the wrong hands?
An example: Internet trade is booming like never before and countless goods are being offered for sale individually. But how can one be assigned to a group of buyers on the Internet and be offered goods in a targeted manner according to the buying interest? How do you find out whether someone is more of a funky type who buys a smartphone or perhaps a Playstation, or perhaps more of a conservative type who relies on durable, tried and tested goods and is more likely to pay a little more for them? The e-mail name is what tells you a lot about it.
People with funny names like “lazys86” or “yellowfrog” are considered to be open for many things. People with cute e-mail names, on the other hand, are considered to be good-natured and those who use their first and last names and separate them with a dot are considered to be fussy. “James007” on the other hand should be very self-confident. The Internet industry tries to derive the buying behaviour from this in order to offer targeted advertising by e-mail. Likewise a personnel manager draws conclusions about the personality of an applicant from the e-mail name.
Which traces one leaves behind in the net can be easily checked by entering one’s e-mail address in various search engines. In this way, you can quickly see where the address has already been used everywhere. The interests of a person can also be read out in this way.
The conclusions derived here are of course not true in every case.
Can an e-mail address lead to your own front door?
Before the introduction of the Basic Regulation on Data Protection (DSGVO) on 25 May 2018, everyone could find out very quickly on the Internet at the German registration authority DENIC who owned the domain “silvermine.de”. Today, this kind of information is only provided upon request if there is a demonstrable interest. All in all, it can be said that the DSGVO has significantly strengthened our rights to protect personal data such as e-mail addresses. Operators of online portals on which you register are obliged to report any loss of data. This means that consumers can decide for themselves whether to change their e-mail address in this case as a precautionary measure.
Structure of an e-mail address
When sending an e-mail, a so-called Internet header is always sent along with it. This contains an IP address (Internet Protocol) from which it can be deduced from where and via which server or provider the e-mail was sent. For example the IP address 22.214.171.124, which leads to the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz.
What does this mean for the use of an e-mail address?
It makes sense to get a free e-mail address that is as neutral as possible, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. There are numerous providers, e.g. web.de, gmx or hotmail, who all offer free e-mail addresses. Such a neutral address should then be used wherever important or long-term e-mail traffic is not important, e.g. when shopping online or registering for bookings. These are also called disposable addresses, because as soon as you have the feeling that you are leaving too many traces on the Internet or that the volume of advertising mail is increasing, you simply get yourself a new e-mail address.
In case of serious businesses that are arranged for a longer time or in the circle of friends, one can of course use the own main e-mail address. But you should create a strong password for this. In addition, you should never use the chosen user name, e.g. from eBay or Amazon, as part of an e-mail name. This allows unauthorized persons to attempt to log in with the user name and make purchases.
An e-mail address reveals the personality, previous behaviour on the World Wide Web and, in individual cases, the complete residential address. The e-mail name should therefore be chosen with great care.