Email has the illusion of being a private archive. In reality, it’s just one nook in a giant echo chamber.
When you click send you aren’t sending so much as duplicating. Forever.
Your email isn’t just going to the recipient. It’s being bounced and copied over innumerable servers, the security and lifespan of which are completely out of your control.
The strength of your email password doesn’t matter. Just look through your email archives. Every message that has someone else's address in the To or From field isn't just on your hard drive. It's on theirs, too. How's Aunt Sally's password security?
Email is not an information storage facility. It's a communication device that accumulates a personal store of data as a byproduct of use.
Email is Schrödinger’s cat’s litter box. Every sent or received message necessarily exists in multiple places at once.
Your email is in the wild. All of it.
A little control. I said a little.
No one can guarantee the complete security of any form of digital data. It’s just too easily copied. But you can at least pare down your exposure by limiting what you put in place like email.
So before you click send, think. In this order:
Do they really need that social security number? If not, just skip it.
So they do want the social security number. Then fill out everything but that part, email the form, then call to have the recipient enter the sensitive stuff themselves.
If you’re sending something that already has sensitive information, use PDFpen to redact the parts you don’t want others to see.
If you absolutely must send something with sensitive information, use Dropbox to send it around, not through email.
When all else fails, hold your nose, and fax it.1
Of course, know that increasingly fax services convert inbound faxes to email. ↩