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Moving from Gmail to Tutanota Email

These posts describe my digital privacy journey. Some decisions were mistakes in hindsight, but I want to show all the steps I took.

I decided to switch to a privacy-respecting email provider and stop using Gmail. I was concerned about the amount of information one company had about my life, as I was using Google for Internet browsing, email, maps, video watching and file storage. After a period of research and trialing privacy-focused providers such as Protonmail and Startmail, I opted for the German email provider Tutanota.

Tutanota offers a free account with 1GB of storage space. Their premium version is very affordable. They provide an encrypted email service; you can also encrypt mails sent to a non-Tutanota email account using a password. They have a good calendar and their contacts tool is clear and simple. The user interface is attractive and works equally well in your browser, as a stand-alone app, and on your phone.

To make the transition to my new address, I set up automatic forwarding from Gmail to Tutanota (more about this under Documentation below). When people wrote to my Gmail account, I would consistently reply from my new Tutanota address until eventually the new address was generally adopted.

Problems I encountered

I had been using one primary gmail account for over a decade, which created the following challenges when migrating to Tutanota:

  • Encouraging adoption of the new address through forwarding did work, but it took time.
  • Since I had used my Gmail to create most of my online accounts, I had to retrace my steps and find login details for all platforms and services I was signed up with, and then change these. This was time-consuming and tedious. A positive side-effect was that this gave me a chance to reflect on whether I really needed each service and I ended up deleting a bunch of accounts.
  • Some email providers marked my Tutanota address as spam, which made me feel slightly insecure about the reliability of my mails arriving at their destination. I had to ask a few recipients to white-list my new address to solve this problem.
  • Some quality-of-life features I had gotten very used to with Gmail (conversation threads, a powerful search tool) were missing or not as good. Some features are apparently more challenging to set up in an encrypted email environment.
  • I had less storage space than I was used to with Gmail, though Gmail later reduced the amount of free storage.

Current use and looking ahead

I'm really happy with my decision to move to Tutanota, and have persuaded some family members and friends set up an account with them. Setting up Tutanota accounts for my children gave me a chance to have conversations with them about privacy-respecting alternative options in the digital world. The majority of their peers still adopt Gmail without question, partly due to the ubiquity of Chrome books and Google platforms in schools.

I pay for Tutanota Premium and am happy with their service and responsiveness. They are quite good at keeping their customers informed, clearly explaining reasons for changes and developments. They have a good blog and web presence and are generally touted as a good alternative for email in the privacy communities.

In future, I would like to learn more about email aliasing and how to use this in a practical way.


How to set up automatic forwarding from Gmail to Tutanota:

  1. while logged into Gmail, go to Settings (click on the cog wheel in the upper-right hand corner, next to your profile picture)
  2. click on the "Forwarding and POP/IMAP" tab listed at the top
  3. select "Forward a copy of incoming mail to" and enter your new email address here
  4. (optional) select "delete Gmail's copy" to avoid redundancy
  5. scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on "Save Changes"

Privacy-friendly email alternatives worth investigating:

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