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What Email and Messaging Services Are Trusted By Private Investigators?

Updated: Sep 3


As technology continuously expands its limitations, companies evolve, products are developed, minds are persuaded, and we, the consumer, receive new options for our privacy and security. This is a 2023 update as to the services a private investigator would recommend to a client who wishes to have more privacy in their communications.


Email is inherently insecure. It should not be relied on for confidential communications, unless it is encrypted end-to-end. Learn more about our recommended email, direct from a private investigator.


man researching at computer
The Most Secure Email Recommended By Private Investigator


What email and private messaging apps are trusted by private investigation agencies? Obviously, private investigators work in secrecy. Because a private investigator must maintain client confidentiality many private investigation firms are using end-to-end encrypted services. For email, Proton is the privacy oriented email of choice. For secure messaging, calls, and video chats, XPAL is the encrypted messaging app of choice.


I promise to share with you more about the email of choice for some private investigators, but first, please build upon your understanding with a few paragraphs that paint the picture.


The Problem With Email Security

Email is not secure. Period. Did you get the emphasis? In a study conducted by University of Illinois Urbana Champaign (read your techy heart out) tells us that 20% of Gmail accounts were attacked. This is significant and cannot be understated. Although Gmail has grown in the past few years, since this study, the threat is real. Some 700,000 email servers were studied in the joint research between UIAC and University of Michigan. It was found that in the 700,000, 35% had no encryption technology.


It was also observed by computer scientists at the University of California San Diego (another techy paper) "The vast majority of email users continue to send email in the clear, with no safeguards against eavesdropping, tampering, or forgery. Despite rising public concern about mass surveillance, universal end-to-end email security still remains elusive."


The Secrets Private Investigators Keep

People have been hiring private investigators since 1833 when VIDOCQ opened the first detective agency in Paris, France. When Vidocq started, he primarily began in pursuit of the fraudsters who were defrauding local commerce, the businesses of Paris. He quickly began collecting thousands of clients who had all sorts of issues. This involved his private investigation practice in myriads of personal, legal and business matters.

Monsieur Vidocq's first method of private communication was an anti-counterfeiting paper that he had invented and patented, that he had told people no one could bypass his security paper.

Let's take a brief look at the matters private investigators keep confidential.


Confidential Personal & Familial Secrets

Professional private investigators help private clients such as families with private investigation services. These need to remain private in order for a private detective to have a reputation of integrity. P.I.s might uncover infidelity in a marriage. They may verify a background of a new partner. They may help resolve a child custody matter and any number of discreet and confidential personal matters including information on the children.


Private clients share the most intimate of details regarding their sex life, the bad habits of their partner, their mental health concerns and deep, dark fears. We appreciate a client's forthrightness because, often, this helps us to understand the big picture.


We guard these secrets and never share them in any way shape or form.


Family posing for picture
Personal Matters Need to Stay Private


Business Confidential Matters

Often, private investigates commercial matters. These may be cases that deal with the possible ethics of a business associate, or the protection of trade secrets or other intellectual property. Perhaps we are vetting the background of a board member or a C-suite executive manager. We also may be conducting due diligence of a competitor, where if the secret got out, could damage our client's business reputation.


These are all reasons to maintain the strictest of confidentiality when it comes to personal information on current and previous clients.


Legal Cases

Costly legal cases can give our clients' a huge increase to their stress level. We use our expertise as detectives to help lawyers and those facing legal conflicts with various investigation needs that may go beyond the surface and probe into strictly confidential areas that move forward legal cases for the better or for the worse. As objective investigators our job is to deliver facts and these facts may be protected by attorney-client confidentiality.


Confidential Private Investigation Services

We have briefly established that when hiring a private investigator, sharing personal, business and legal details is par for the course. It just goes with the territory for a private detective to listen carefully to their clients issues so that they can find the correct way to address them. It is as if we are the older sibling, parent, best friend, counselor and priest all in one.


Because people need a private investigator to carry these secrets to their grave, P.I.s need to give clients peace of mind when dealing with their communications and storage of emails from clients email address.


Hire Private Investigators That Protect Your Email Address

This firm is a little different than others in our investigative world. We were the first, beginning in 2002 to offer privacy services. This stemmed from an investigation we conducted and one of our investigators needed some protection from the people he testified against and the Witness Protection program was not an option. We then started digging into all the ways we could assist him and ensure his security. From there we worked for celebrities and CEOs of companies, some of which were under social attacks for their differing views on certain social topics.


Some private investigators are very sloppy in the service they provide. They may inadvertently share personal matters with someone that they believe is part of your case via email misspellings or typos. Some have been known to sell or otherwise poorly manage customer data through email marketing lists.


We don't market to anyone via email. So, you are not in danger of anyone ever even knowing you were considering a private investigator. This comes at a cost, because email lists can be very lucrative to market to.


Modern Email Is Getting Better For Private Detectives

Since the Snowden Leaks of 2013, the world has stood up and taken notice that email is not what they thought it was. Government intrusion, domestic and foreign spying, hackers have all but destroyed our faith in email and the integrity of our most personal matters.


Fortunately there are some smart companies that have developed better email security that is now main stream. The choices are becoming more apparent and private investigators should take note and stop using the likes of Hotmail (yep, people still use that), Yahoo, and other obscure providers. Gmail has grown in the last few years, but we don't use Gmail because of all the tracking it does.

What Email Services Do Private Investigators Trust?

It is hard to verify what everyone is using. But, with emails exchanges with outside peers, it is still apparent that the message has not gotten out to all those guardians of secrets.


Some private investigators are still using Outlook, many are using Gmail, I know of two that are using Yahoo and others are using services with their domains through a company like Godaddy, where they registered their domain name.

This does not make any of these options and more, trust worthy. Private investigators in big firms that I am aware of use Outlook and the matter baffles me. Many private investigators put no attention into protecting their clients data because they are just that disconnected from the reality of data hacking. Perhaps it is because our firm is involved in cybersecurity that we are more aware, I cannot be sure. What I am sure of is private investigators have an element of security knowledge and this should be more of a concern.

We recommend Proton, but keep reading to find out why.


What To Verify If You Are Hiring a Private Investigator

When it comes to verifying how your data is managed, it is likely that the private investigation firm will have a page on their website under "Terms & Conditions" or "Privacy Policy" where you can find how they manage the retention and security of your data.


But, when it comes to email and what a private investigator may be using to communicate with their client, this is likely not to be found in their T&Cs or Privacy Policy.

You can look to see if they publish their email address on their site. If so, see what company they are using, such as Gmail, Yahoo, Proton, Tutanota, etc.


If it is not apparent, then ask them. Ask how you will share information back and forth and what they use to do that. Some agencies are progressive in that they have a suite of privacy protection options.


Checklist Of Investigation Needs

The needs of your investigation may be several or may be many. One thing is for certain, you should verify if your private investigator offers option for confidential communications. We are not talking about Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp (owned by FB the most privacy invasive company on planet earth). We are talking about truly encrypted messaging apps or email.


When conducting investigative or intelligence work, private investigators should offer their clients a secure way to communicate. This may be something that is embedded in their case management system, via encrypted email or via a secure messaging app such as Signal or Session.

Private Investigator Recommends Three Options For Secure Messaging Apps

It is our opinion, that private investigators need to make themselves reasonably available to a client. And, they should dictate a secure protocol in every instance of communication. It is for that reason this private investigator recommends XPAL. You can download XPAL by going to their website and reading about their service and then deciding if it is right for you.

With XPAL you get one of the worlds most secure messaging app without giving any of your personal data. It is based on the Signal protocol for encryption, but on steroids. It gives you far more options for maintaining your privacy, plus an xID™ which allows one to give their xID™ instead of their phone number to another person using XPAL. They even offer a method to entirely delete all conversations should you enter your password backwards. Say your password is 1234. Just enter 4321 and it will wipe all the encrypted data from your device and any prying eyes will not know who you spoke to or see the conversations. There are many more exciting options, and it is this authors belief that every family, business, and person should be using this and insisting that those around them do to.


Another great messenger with zero knowledge of who you are is Session Private Messenger. From their website, Session says this about their product: "Session is an end-to-end encrypted messenger that minimizes sensitive metadata, designed and built for people who want absolute privacy and freedom from any form of surveillance." Pretty neat, huh? We recommend and use Session daily as the private investigator does not have to give out their personal phone number, just share the Session ID and you're off and communicating!


We also recommend Signal Private Messenger. It has a solid track record of not giving up user data, even when the Feds are involved. This is mainly because it has nothing it can give up. This private investigator uses Signal for all communications, including phone calls with those that have my personal phone number. In addition, it is worth noting that you can set up Signal using a VOIP number that is not connected to your identity, which is an extra layer of privacy.


All three of these messaging apps are fantastic and Session is in constant development and pushing out new releases and I look forward to where it goes in the next two years. Video and voice are both available on Session and you don't have to give out any personal information to have an account.

With that said, at this point in 2023, it is this authors opinion that XPAL is the best option. It is incredibly secure, has the Wipeout™ function to delete all messages with a backwards passcode, and much more. It is so very easy to use as well. Just have another person download the free app and give them your xID™ and voila! You will be talking, messaging, and video chatting just like any other app or phone - just with privacy at the forefront.


Signal is very easy to to use, but requires you give your phone number to someone. However, it is easily worked around by getting yourself a VOIP number and you are communicating securely with clients and investigators. Signal is also good because it has millions of users. I am constantly seeing people in my phone book coming on board to Signal.


The Most Trusted Email Service For Private Investigators (this investigator, at least)

Google and Facebook work on a targeted advertising model. In exchange for the use of free services, you are giving them something. Your data. They harvest your data so they can target you with precision and in some cases sell your data to other companies.


Because this writers firm is not only a private investigator, but a cybersecurity and a privacy consulting firm, you can take it on good account when we recommend Proton.


This private investigator recommends Proton because Proton has worked diligently for many years perfecting a solid platform for secure emails.


Now, let me say this in the outset. Proton has the best processes that our firm can find for data sitting in servers with a zero-knowledge policy. However, there are pros and cons, and let us share those to be completely transparent.


Pros and Cons of Using Proton Mail For Secure Private Investigator Email

No company is fool proof, and the email of our choice has small matters, I am sure they will eventually figure out, but it is still the most robust option out there.


That is not to say that others are not great, such as Tutanota but after using the likes of the aforementioned and Hushmail.com as well, we feel that we can recommend Proton.me as one of the best options available to date.

Here are some pros and cons of using Proton:

PROS

  • End-to-end (E2E) and zero-access encryption for Email, Calendar, and Contact information

  • Based in Switzerland with certain Swiss laws applying to our privacy

  • Has a decent calendar and storage drive

  • All data stored on servers in Switzerland

  • Apps for Android and iOS mobile devices

  • Web client, encryption algorithms, Android and iOS code are all open source

  • Support for custom domains

  • Strips IP address from emails

  • Can be used with third-party email clients through the ProtonMail Bridge feature. Use this with a mail client such as Thunderbird

  • Can import contacts and emails

CONS

  • ProtonMail does not encrypt email subject lines

  • May require personal information for verification of new accounts, such as a phone number. But you can use a VOIP number or other throw away number with no problem.

  • Confusing pricing. I think they are working this out, but it is really not that clear and it seems to change often, if you elect for a paid account. Free accounts are great!

  • May log IP addresses, but using a VPN will help with that. Read their Privacy Policy here.

  • Beta testing takes forever for new roll outs. But, the great thing is that you know it is likely very secure once they do roll out new products and services.


Even Though This Private Investigator Recommends Proton.me, You Need To Know This

Although Proton is extremely secure, the best out-of-the-box this private investigator and cyber firm recommends, you should know that your email may not be encrypted always. Here is how it works.

Encryption is built-in when you send an email to another Proton user. That is simple. Just type your message, enter the recipients email, and if it is a Proton user it will show a lock and you know it is secure.

If the recipient is not a Proton user, you do have the option to encrypt the message. Here is what Proton says about sending encrypted email:

"Emails sent between Proton Mail users are automatically end-to-end encrypted

(E2EE). You can send a message that is automatically end-to-end encrypted to someone who doesn’t use Proton Mail if they use PGP. In addition to this, we offer a Password-protected Emails feature that allows you to send E2EE messages to any email user without the need for PGP.

With Password-protected Emails, your recipient receives an email telling them they have been sent a secure encrypted message. To read the message, they must enter a previously agreed-upon password. This takes them to a secure Proton Mail mailbox where they can read your message and respond using E2EE. You do not need a Proton Mail account to access this inbox. "

Read more about password-protected emails here.


Conclusion

Not everything is cut and dry. But as private investigators, people who keep secrets, we know that maintaining privacy at the highest levels is our foremost concern. Our cybersecurity experts also recommend that you understand that technology is evolving at a rapid rate. While we wholeheartedly recommend Proton now, things could change. Our firm has used Proton for 5 years, we only see it getting better and that is why we can recommend Proton.


This blog article is written to give our perspective, others may have a different view point. It contains affiliate links to Proton. Not because a few dollars supports us, but because we feel it is fair that if we use and heavily promote this to our clients as being a good option, then we feel a few dollars is fair for a link to their services.

If we could suggest one messaging app in conclusion, at this point we are recommending XPAL and you really owe it to yourself to check it out. We receive no affiliate consideration, so rest assured that our recommendation is not tainted by the promise of money. We just think it is the greatest secure messaging app since these apps have been a thing.

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