There are two good privacy-related reasons to archive (take offline and store somewhere on your local computer) your e-mail:

  1. If it’s not online, the government can’t request it. Perhaps the NSA has already intercepted it, but if they haven’t, or if another agency wants it but doesn’t have the clout to make the NSA produce it, you’re now in control — not Google or whoever your mail host is.
  2. The government thinks your old/read e-mail isn’t constitutionally protected. The DoJ has argued that e-mails that are read, or e-mails that are 180+ days old, are no longer subject to privacy if you leave them sitting on the server. This is obviously fucking absurd, but the idea still hasn’t been officially shot down because last time it was tried, the government withdrew its request rather than fight for it.

How to do it? If you use a corporate mail server such as Exchange server, you can set up personal storage folders (.pst files) using Outlook. Move your e-mail there, and they’re offline (assuming your company hasn’t retained them). Gmail user? Try this article on for size.


This is one of a 30-part series, “No Surveillance State Month,” where daily for the month of June I’ll be posting ways to avoid invasion of your privacy in the digital age. The intent of these posts is not to enable one to escape detection while engaging in criminal activity — there’s still the old-fashioned “send a detective to watch you” for which these posts will not help. Rather, this series will help you to opt-out of the en masse collection of data by the government and large corporations that places Americans in databases without their knowing and freely-given consent for indefinite time periods. We all have the right to privacy, and I hope you demand it.