Mailpile is an email solution that tries to protect you from privacy violations by online email providers (most probably as forced by government agencies). It recently entered beta stage, which means you may act as a guinea pig and try the software at your own peril.

The problem it tries to solve is that when all your email is stored on some cloud server, the company who provides that cloud server will have access to all your email – should they choose. Normally, you can assume they won’t be so interested in you in particular – but for many people just the idea that it’s possible is a problem. Also, it has been claimed by Edward Snowden that even in the NSA, analyst will regularly share citizen’s private photos, even though there is supposedly the strictest of procedural controls. If that happens at the NSA, what should we suppose is happening at Google, Yahoo and Microsoft?

So Mailpile is an application that runs locally on your computer, and stores your email there. So…problem solved? Well, no, not in my opinion.

Mailpile still needs a mail address. It’s not a mail server itself. So where does the email go? Mailpile says you can use it with Gmail as the cloud storage; but that would mean you only get a whole lot more hassle without any benefits whatsoever: Google still has your mail. The same would go for any other email provider. Sure, if you encrypt your email – then Google would only have encrypted blobs on their server – but you’d also most likely be emailing with yourself most of the time since no Normals use mail encryption. I’m not sure this has any more benefits than any PGP plugin for a mail client.

Some say the email system just wasn’t designed for privacy, and we should just leave it behind alltogether. PGP is also no longer considered state of the art – I think Family Ties may still have been running when it was first released. These challenges may lie at the core of an unsolvable challenge for the company.

I admire the folk at Mailpile for their hard work, and we should all start encrypting our email. But until we do, Mailpile really doesn’t seem to offer a solution. I wish it were so. We need a solution for secure mail, but I don’t think Mailpile is it.