Take control of your inbox with Apple's Hide My Email
The state of our inboxes
Do you have a love/hate relationship with email? If so, you aren't alone.
Most of us probably have hundreds or even thousands of emails in one inbox, all sent to the same address. Any email could be coming from any source. This doesn't sound like too much of a problem and it's something we've learned to live with for many years.
But with ever-increasing spam and phishing emails, let's have a look at one thing we can do to greatly improve this situation with fairly minimal effort.
What is Hide My Email?
Hide My Email is a feature from Apple that allows you to sign up to websites, apps, services, newsletters etc, with unique email addresses that forward to your mailbox while keeping your personal email address private.
How does it work?
Imagine a key card security system deployed at a business premises. Each employee is given a card with a unique code which grants them access to the building. When someone enters the building the security team can check the records and see who it is. However, at any point access to the building can be revoked and the key disabled, for example if an employee leaves or is fired.
It's the same principle with Hide My Email. Each company you sign up to (or anyone you supply with an address via Hide My Email) is given a unique email address effectively granting them access to your inbox. You can, at any point, disable or delete that unique address thereby revoking their access to your mailbox. And the sender never knows your actual email address: as the name implies, it's hidden from them.
Hide My Email is available when using "Sign in with Apple" or if you subscribe to iCloud+.
Once enabled, when you sign up to a website or app, whether using Sign in with Apple or clicking in the email field, you'll be given two options:
1) Use your main, personal email address
2) Allow Hide My Email to generate a unique address that will only be used for that site
If you choose the second option, Hide My Email will generate a unique email address that will only be used with that site. Any emails that are sent to that address will be forwarded to your personal inbox without the sender ever knowing your personal email address.
What if you need an email address that isn't for a website, app or even online at all?
No problem. You can also generate unique email addresses independently of any app or website directly on your device by going to:
Settings > Apple ID > iCloud > Hide My Email and clicking "+ Create new address".
This may be a good idea if you know you'll be needing an address at some point, and you want to have one ready-made. Or for example, if you meet a new contact and need to give them an address but prefer to keep your personal one private, if you want to make a medical appointment over the phone or give an email address in a store. Basically, anywhere you need to give an email address that isn't on a website or an app.
If having a unique email address for every account seems daunting and difficult to manage, don't worry. Addresses are easily manged in the Hide My Email settings page. The addresses are stored along with a section for you to add notes.
The main advertised benefit of Hide My Email is improved privacy.
Giving your private email address to every company that you sign up to means that very quickly your private email address is no longer very... well... private. It's not long before your inbox is filled with spam from countless sources.
Do you ever receive spam or phishing emails and wonder how your email address ever ended up in the hands of the senders?
Unfortunately, sometimes email addresses are sold from one company to others, leaked or worse, stolen.
When you only use one email address, and that address gets out in the wild it becomes too difficult to control and too much hassle to change every time you start getting spam or phishing emails.
But with Hide My Email, this hassle only needs to happen once. Once you've created unique addresses for all your accounts, you'll only ever have to change one at a time again. It's a bit like a password manager, but for your email addresses.
To aid privacy further, Apple claims it does not process any of the contents of emails other than what's required for spam filtering, and emails are removed from the relay servers within seconds of being delivered to your mailbox.
Defence against phishing attacks
Another crucial benefit is a defence against repeated phishing attacks.
We receive phishing emails because our email address has, one way or another, landed in the hands of cyber criminals.
Wouldn't it be great if we had multiple email addresses, a separate one for each service? That way when a phishing email (or any other suspicious email) came through to our inbox, we could see which address it was coming to. It would then be easy to create a new email address for just that one service and then deactivate or delete the old one, thus cutting the unwanted emails off at the source. Well, this is exactly the kind of benefit that Hide My Email provides.
How to use Hide My Email
The following is for iOS. The steps are quite similar on Mac but will start from System Preferences rather than Settings.
How to use unique addresses for new accounts
To make an address for a new account:
1. Go to the website (using Safari) or app's sign-up page
2. Click on the email field
3. Select Hide My Email
The address item will be labelled with the website address it is related to and there is a note section for you to add any further information you wish.
How to manually add new address to existing accounts
To manually create addresses to add to existing accounts on iOS devices:
1. Go to Settings, click your Apple ID, iCloud, Hide My Email
2. Tap + Create new address
3. Select Continue to use the suggested address or Use different address for a new suggestion
4. Once created, go to the website where you wish to replace your existing email address and replace with the new address
How to Deactivate Hide My Email addresses
To deactivate addresses on iOS devices:
1. Go to Settings, click your Apple ID, iCloud, Hide My Email
2. Select the address to be deactivated
3. Tap Deactivate
My final thought
Apple's Hide My Email is a very simple way to add a layer of privacy and security to your everyday online life. An iCloud+ subscription currently starts at just 79 pence per month (UK GBP).
This method of allowing multiple emails is not exclusive to Apple. There are other services that offer this feature, though perhaps not with the same ease of use and user friendliness that Apple is known for.
If you're already invested in the Apple ecosystem this is a great way to go.
Now you're here, why not sign up to our mailing list - maybe you can use it as a chance to try Hide My Email!