3/10/2013

Fastmail finds it Australian roots and updates Privacy Policy

A few months ago I wrote about how I’ve been reducing my reliance on a single point of aggregation of my online data. Previously I - like many - had a big reliance on Google for many services, including email 1.

I had considered that as these were paid accounts I was the customer not the product. I wasn’t concerned about Google using my data to sell to potential advertisers - as I might be if using the free product. But I was concerned about having all my eggs in one basket.

To be clear I accept that living in an online world necessitates trusting providers like Google, Apple, Yahoo! and others with some of my data. What don’t really want is any one company having a complete picture of me. So I spread my meta data around 2.

I moved my email hosting to a paid account at Fastmail, an Australian operated company (then) owned by Opera Software. In late September, it was announced that the Fastmail staff have purchased the company back from Opera - thereby making it an Australian company again.

Yesterday, Fastmail released the updated Fastmail Privacy Policy. There are several key aspects of this policy that I like.

1. Fastmail is Subject to Australian Laws

FastMail is an Australian company and as such is subject to Australian law. Australia has strong privacy laws in relation to email, specified in the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979.

Take a look at the Electronic Frontiers Australia link in the Fastmail post that provides a great summary of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. This act means that authorised intelligence and law enforcement agencies can only get access to data for named accounts, and then only with a warrant.

2. Fastmail Observes the Australian Laws

Overseas law enforcement may apply via an appropriate mutual assistance treaty to obtain information on our users. If the request is approved, then Australian documentation will be issued for disclosure of this information.

This distinction may seem academic, but in our experience the extra administrative overhead, and the additional layers of judicial oversight mean that we receive very few valid requests that originate from overseas and they must always be targeted at specific accounts.

Its interesting to note that Fastmail receives very few valid requests from overseas” (emphasis mine).

From a usage point of view, I have been really happy with Fastmail. The IMAP email is excellent, and I have been able to manage multiple domains under a single account, and I can have different users with emails for separate domains, each with different usage levels. This allows me a much more flexible approach to setup and management, and of course pricing.

The only thing I initially missed with Fastmail is the lack of push notifications since they don’t support Exchange type email. That has actually turned into an advantage - very few (if any) emails are really that urgent. I have come to appreciate the benefit of mindfulness in email consumption as opposed to the interuptive nature of a push-driven world.


  1. In fact, I had multiple Google Apps paid accounts and once considered myself as an evangelist for their services.

  2. As Bruce Schneier said Metadata equals surveillance; it’s that simple”, regardless of whether that metadata is collected by a government or a business.


Fastmail email privacy


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