Since the dawn of civilization, communication has been a route to power. The Chasqui of ancient Peru were a team of fleet-footed messengers that relayed goods and information from the Andes to the Pacific Ocean at the behest of the King, memorizing messages that were passed through this network. Not much has changed in the intervening centuries: power is still derived from control of communication.
Finding email addresses
Email has only been around for about 30 years but it has become a battlefield for marketers against individuals who seek to keep prying eyes at bay. While some of the Millennial generation have strayed from emailing to relying solely on texting, much value remains in obtaining email addresses.
If you’re hunting for another person’s email address, there are many ways to guess at or search for it, particularly if you know the person’s place of work or internet carrier. You may search the person’s name online in hopes of finding a place he or she has posted the email address you seek. Searching social media is another likely source of contact information.
Subscribing to a service that has legally compiled a database of emails is a simpler and more efficient way to find a person’s email address. Linking email addresses with their registered owners’ names is a significant step in unraveling the identity of scammers, to find out about your new date’s employment status, and learn more about your neighbor’s past. That email address could reveal unknown social media profiles – perhaps a secret life.
Another data point
Marketers and others who compile user profiles place a high value on attaching an email address to the data they collect. That is why companies ask for your email – or require it – when you purchase an item or have another type of transaction in person or online.
There are plenty of reasons to keep a personal email address as private as possible: spam, viruses, and other malware. Once the more nefarious messages are received on your computer they can do much harm to your system, including allowing ransomware to lock up your files until you pay to have access returned.
Hackers have penetrated the firewalls at several large companies, stealing email addresses and personal information of subscribers and users by the millions. But many other companies willingly sell much of that information to third-party marketers without making it clear whether you have an option to deny that exchange of your personal information. Google’s Gmail was notorious for scanning the email of users in order to target marketing at those people. Several lawsuits, including one for wiretapping, made them promise to cease the practice in 2017.
Unlike outright theft, other companies that host information, like your cell phone carrier that allows synchronization of your smartphone with your computer contacts, uses the small print of its user contracts to give themselves access to your email and those of everyone you interact with. This information can then be shared with others.
Mankind has forever been on a quest to improve the speed and efficiency of systems like communication. There were smoke signals, messenger pigeons sent across enemy lines in wartime, teletype machines operated by sailors with speedy fingers, telex machines clicking away in newsrooms, couriers braving city traffic, and mail carriers driving down long country lanes to drop letters in mailboxes.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the U.S. Department of Defense began to change all of that in the 1960s as they developed systems of sending messages within networks. At this time there were no desktop computers as we know them, just giant mainframe machines that were designed to crunch data. E-mail like messages were sent between terminals attached to the same mainframe starting in 1972 with technology developed by the Department of Defense for ARPANET, the Advanced Research Projects Agency.
The first desktop computers, the Apple III, TRS-80, and Commodore computers were introduced in 1977, aimed at the home user. As companies developed the ability for users to email others within the same network, interest in personal email spread to individual users for personal use. Dial-up service over telephone lines using Internet Service Providers spread for email purposes prior to Internet websites as we know them taking shape.