Information you send and receive on the internet (e.g. E-mail) is usually compared to sending postcards in the mail. In principle anyone who handles those postcards can read them without you knowing of that.
OK, you say, how about encrypting them or using PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) and other counter-sniffing techniques? You may give it a try but remember: you have to communicate with the recipients to hand your “private key” but how?
Is this scary? Well, it is as good as talking on the phone or making your mailing address available for junk mail. Junk e-mail, of course, costs less.
In short, there is no real privacy online. Don’t be deceived: confidential is another abused word like peace, justice and love, to name a few.
Spamming and junk E-mail:
Like junk postal mail and even much worse, junk e-mail is an annoying aspect of the digital world and the irritation it causes is growing by the day. Spamming is the word commonly used to describe Net abuse via e-mail or newsgroups. (Spam is also a brand name food!).
Spammers get your e-mail address in many ways. There are companies that collect and sell e-mail addresses. They acquire your e-mail like they do your phone number or mailing address.
The difference between this and junk postal mail is the fake source. Spammers hide themselves and use many fake addresses for each occasion.
So, what’s the solution? There are e-mail filters which block addresses and domains but addresses are easily faked and one can’t afford blocking domains completely. Remember not to read suspicious messages.
See also: The Spam FAQ (Oh, yes, you are not fighting nonsense on your own. There is a lot of help out there. And while we are at it, you can counter regular junk mail by marking it “return to sender” without opening it – this way they pay postage twice.