Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Most individuals wouldn't be able to access emails that you've deleted... but that doesn't mean that someone at the ISP wouldn't be able to find the message.
I'm a very casual user of email. I have two free accounts: one on Yahoo and one on Gmail. I have 13-character passwords but even so, I can't be assured that my account won't be hacked or that emails won't be otherwise read or distributed. My question is if someone hacks my email account, can they somehow obtain the emails that I supposedly permanently deleted by emptying the trash container. In other words, am I doing myself any good by keeping my inbox and my trash empty? Thank you.
Emptying the trash is a good approach to making sure that messages that you've deleted stay that way. Now, there is an exception to this statement (and I'll explain in a moment), but the bottom line is that when you empty the trash, the files are essentially no longer recoverable to you.
If you click Empty Trash and then try to recover an email message, you couldn't get your message back. For that matter, neither could a hacker.
And a lot of people do empty their trash frequently. In fact, many desktop-based email programs offer you the option of automatically emptying the trash when you close out of the program. I'm not aware of any similar functionality in the web-based email world like Yahoo and Gmail, but you get the idea. It's something that people do think about and often do.
Now, let me explain that exception. The scenario that you're describing in your question is what I'd consider hacking. Someone gains access to your emails without your permission. In this case, you're absolutely right. Deleting your messages protects the information in those messages.
But I want to be clear. For someone looking for a way to expunge emails from their records completely, simply deleting your messages does nothing.
Remember that your ISP (in your case, Yahoo and Gmail) is backing up their servers. They're recording things; they're keeping things for an indeterminate amount of time. We don't know how long (Yahoo and Gmail won't say).
While an individual wouldn't be able to access the email that used to be in your trash before you deleted it, that doesn't mean that someone at the ISP wouldn't be able to find the message. They may be able to access it from a backup taken before you deleted it or other resources that we don't know about or don't understand.
Now, it's not necessarily even a bad player that would do that. It's not like there's a rogue employee, although that happens occasionally. But let's say that an email may be of interest to law enforcement or the legal system. ISPs are often compelled to respond to court orders to retrieve data.
How often do ISPs respond to the court orders? I honestly don't know. But the point is that theoretically, an ISP could recover data that had been removed from your trash.
It's certainly not something they're going to do lightly. If you asked them to recover one lost message, an ISP is more likely to tell you the data is gone rather than go through their backups. But if what you're concerned about has any legal, political, or other kinds of overtones, it is possible that they may be able to recover a deleted email message.
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