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Can my emails be traced?

In the digital age, Big Brother is always watching.

Huge data analysis firms are teaming up with trusted social networks to manipulate voters, brands know our behaviours and preferences better than we do, and our every move is being traced and harvested by unscrupulous companies for the purposes of creating and selling the stupidest t-shirts in the history of the universe.

Sometimes it feels like there’s nowhere left to hide.

Philosophical discussions about the nature of privacy and humankind’s innate right to it aside, doing almost anything digitally with true anonymity is a big ask these days.

But what about our emails? What if one wanted to send an email without it being traced back to them? What if one didn’t want the recipient to be able to find out who/where one was? Would such a thing even be possible, or can one’s emails be traced no matter how careful/deceptive one might be?

Here at Phrasee, where email is a way of life, we wonder about such things sometimes.


Is it possible to send an anonymous email?

The short answer is that sending an anonymous email is indeed possible, and doing so may be a bit simpler than you’d think. If you take very specific steps to hide your IP address/identity/device/location, you can make it difficult for your email to be traced by most recipients. However, unless you put the work in to anonymise your email beforehand, most emails can quite easily be traced back to you, your IP address, and even the location the email was sent from.

If you are extremely careful every step of the way, an “anonymous” email that is quite difficult to trace back to you can be sent with relative ease.


But is it truly “untraceable”, though?

Not really.

If you are considering sending an email that could land you in legal trouble, you might want to think twice. Like all digital communication, sending an email always leaves footprints and clues that can help trace that email back to you eventually. It’s simply a matter of how much trouble the recipient is willing to go to to find out who you are and what kinds of resources and technical knowledge they have at their disposal.

If the government or a police agency decides to trace your email, they’ll almost certainly be successful, no matter how careful you’ve been.


Darn! What can I do instead to deliver an untraceable message?

If you’ve ever watched a forensics cop show, you know that there are a million ways most things can be traced back to criminals. From handwriting analysis to DNA, hiding the truth has become harder than ever.

However, if you’re bound and determined to send someone a message that absolutely can’t be traced back to you under any circumstances, here’s a step by step guide that you could try:

1) Buy rubber gloves (make sure you wear a ski mask whilst purchasing them and pay with cash. Also, make sure they are an extremely common brand. Also, you’ll need to conceal your identity to and from the rubber glove shop, drive a car with no license plates on it which you’ve bought specifically for this trip [again with cash and again while wearing a ski mask], which you will destroy immediately after buying your rubber gloves)

2) Hire a homeless person to write out your message for you to throw off the handwriting analysts. Remember to fly said homeless person to the Cayman Islands as soon as the message is written to live out his/her days in luxury, just in case they may turn out to be a snitch down the road.

3) Capture and train a homing pigeon. Raise it lovingly until it is so old that it only has enough energy left to fly to where you want the message to go, but not enough energy to get back to your house.

4) Affix the note to the homing pigeon’s leg (again while wearing rubber gloves [Hopefully you’ve been wearing rubber gloves for the pigeon’s entire life, lest you get DNA on the pigeon’s feathers])

5) Set the pigeon loose and watch it soar majestically across the sky toward your message’s desired recipient.

6) Remove rubber gloves and ski mask. Burn them.

7) Rest easy. You’ve just sent an untraceable message!

Or have you….?

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