No matter your personal thoughts on Edward Snowden, his revelations made just about everyone more protective of their privacy as he essentially showed the world that the NSA aims to collect your data no matter whom you might be.
“A lot of people were upset with those revelations, and that coalesced into this effort,” said Jason Stockman, a co-developer of ProtonMail. The recently launched service was made possible by a collaboration of scientists and students at Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the European research lab CERN best known for its supercollider.
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Improved security falls short
While Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL)’s Gmail and Yahoo Mail have increased their security, ProtonMail aims to provide secure email without the poor track record the aforementioned companies have despite their heightened security.
While encryption is essential for say dissidents in Iran and China, it’s is growing in its use following Snowden’s revelations and picking up traction all over the world.
“Our vision is to make encryption and privacy mainstream by making it easy to use,” Stockman told AFP. “There’s no installation. Everything happens behind the scenes automatically.”
No keys or codes are needed like PGP protocol demands, everything is taken care of for you. Presently, users can request a user name and when space opens up ProtonMail will notify you using your existing, less secure email service.
“As our users from China, Iran, Russia, and other countries around the world have shown us in the past months, ProtonMail is an important tool for freedom of speech and we are happy to finally be able to provide this to the whole world,” the company said in a blog post.
NSA: Conflict of interest for Google and others
While Google and Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) have been improving their security, there will always be a conflict of interests.
“These big companies don’t want to encrypt your stuff because they spy on you, too,” said Bruce Schneier, a well-known cryptographer and author who is chief technology officer for CO3 Systems.
“Hopefully, the NSA debate is creating incentives for people to build more encryption.”
Stockman said that with services like Gmail, even if data is encrypted, “they have the key right next to it if you have the key and lock next to each other, so it’s pretty much useless.”
The service’s Swiss location will put it outside the jurisdiction of both the United States and the eurozone.
In the event of a unlikely Swiss court order to hand over data Stockman said, “we would hand over piles of encrypted data. We don’t have a key. We never see the password.”