The #1 lesson you can learn from Craigslist’s focus on online privacy


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craigslist-online-privacyEver questioned why Craiglist generates a new email address for you when you contact strangers through the site? Neither have we.

Craigslist’s anonymous email feature is a no-brainer: when communicating with strangers online, you don’t want to give out your email or other personal info.

Online services like Craigslist may raise fear of virtual stranger danger, since the sites’ users directly communicate with each other. But Craigslist’s anonymous emails, as well as other safety features, serve to protect sensitive user information.

The real question is, “why aren’t you using the same safety practices elsewhere in the cyber world?”

There’s no good answer (I promise)

Craigslist was founded by Craig Newmark in 1995, and is now the largest classifieds service in the world with 50 billion page views per month. The company began as a simple email list of social events in the San Francisco bay area sent by Newmark himself, who was adjusting to the new city after a recent move. The site now operates in 70 countries and 700 locales.

Most internet users would never give out their personal information to sites like Craigslist if they knew that strangers had access to it. This is why the anonymous email feature is of critical importance to the company now valued in the billions: it ensures the preservation of private user data.


Considering the utility and popularity of Craigslist and the increasing need for online privacy, not displaying or submitting your real email is an obvious solution to many modern privacy woes. So, why do so many internet users go from site to site—for coupons, travel info, news alerts, and shopping access—giving out their email address to strangers?

If you had to read privacy policies, you probably wouldn’t use most sites

You might not participate in companies’ services, like or Amazon, if you knew that your personal email was disclosed to others. Companies across the web hide their privacy policies and terms of service as best they can (by the way, here’s Abine’s privacy policy). This is the reason you continue to give out your personal info on sites: no one tells you not to.

But Craigslist’s impressive growth over the years has certainly made users feel safe.

Many users let down their guard when prompted to provide an email address by a seemingly harmless website, perhaps even the website of a trusted online merchant. In fact, any site could be sharing or selling the information that you provide.

Outside of ad networks (that serve targeted ads) and data collection companies, there are two groups you may not be familiar with: partners and scammers.

  • Partners. Sometimes you sign up for more than you bargain for when you register your email on a website, even one that you trust. Companies set up partnerships that allow them to share your personal data like your email with other companies, often in exchange for other data or cash.
  • Scammers. Ever find scam email (a cousin of spam email) in your inbox? So have millions of others. Your emails can be sold in bulk on illegal sites, and obtained through a variety of methods. Brian Krebs reported on this recently.

Masked Emails: how you can protect your email on sites that don’t respect privacy

DoNotTrackMe’s Masked Emails allow you to use Craigslist-like emails wherever you go on the web. To learn more and practice how they work, check them out here. Masked Emails allow you to use the internet how you want without jeopardizing your privacy.


Want to practice using Masked Emails? Check them out here.

3 Replies to “The #1 lesson you can learn from Craigslist’s focus on online privacy”

  1. Jack Dick says:

    Thanks Abine, I love all your security downloads especially MaskMe .

    Thanks Again;

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