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What is ProtonMail and 6 reasons why you should use it

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  • 5 min read

ProtonMail, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, is a secure email service with a broader goal of “building an internet that protects privacy”. Founded in 2013 by Dr Andy Yen, the service employs scientists, engineers and developers who have a “common goal of protecting civil liberties online” by leading the fight against global monopolistic organisations such as Google.

Unlike the other advertisement based service providers, ProtonMail relies on crowdfunding to meet its demands. The support centres are in San Francisco, CA, and Skopje, Macedonia. This global network of support centres ensures 24/7 support for the customers.

Apart from crowdfunding, the backers of ProtonMail are Charles River Ventures and Fondation Genevoise pour l’Innovation Technologique (FONGIT). Along with that, the MIT Venture Mentoring Service also advices the company.

While a free email ID with basic support and limited features including storage, messages per day and folders is available to users, they also have the option to upgrade into one of ProtonMail’s paid plans that start at €5/month or €48/year.

Also read: 5 things you might not know about Kubernetes

6 reasons why you should switch to ProtonMail from Gmail

One of the main reasons, which should be enough, is to protect your privacy. The global concern over privacy is gaining momentum in recent years. Google unarguably uses Chrome for tracking user activity and if you’re bothered about your privacy online, you’ll catch the drift.

Since Google is the owner of Gmail, rest assured your email activity is being monitored. Moreover, targeted advertising plays with the psychology of the user and Gmail is not a standalone service rather it is an ecosystem of interconnected services, which makes collecting user data and targeting them across services streamlined. Google even personalises searches in incognito mode, which is aided by the collection of data against your profile.

On the contrary, ProtonMail provides the following services which make it an attractive alternative to Gmail and other similar services like Yahoo. Apps for Android and iOS are available too.

End-to-end encryption

ProtonMail provides end-to-end encryption service, which prevents the third party from reading the message. While the company cannot read your emails, the same cannot be said about Gmail, which uses keywords from the subject line of your emails for ad targeting.

However, there’s also a downside. If you forget your password, resetting it erase all the data in your inbox. This is done to protect user privacy in case of brute force attacks.

Location Advantage

ProtonMail is based in Switzerland, which allows the company to be outside of EU and US jurisdiction. Swiss laws prevent the company to comply with the surveillance requests from countries such as US. Even Swiss authorities cannot compel the company to conduct surveillance — providing a safe location to protect confidential user data.

Open Source

One additional benefit is that Protonmail’s source code is open source meaning that the service will always be free and transparent. However, there are paid upgradations available with fees ranging from $4/ month to $24/ month. Users can choose as per their requirements.

Self-owned servers

The company owns and controls all the servers. The primary data centre is located 1000 metres under the rock. This heavily guarded datacentre can withstand a nuclear attack. The servers use encrypted hard disks guarded by multiple layers of password security. Indeed, this feature greatly enhances data security.

Self Destructing Messages

A user can set the timer for the destruction of the messages, after which the message and its contents will be erased from the recipient’s inbox. Moreover, this service works both for emails sent from proton to proton service or to non-proton service. Self-destructing message service was used by the Cambridge Analytica back in 2018.

SSL Connection

SSL adds another layer of protection to the already encrypted data. The SSL certificate authority is QuoVadis Trustlink Schweiz AG. Having a swiss based certificate provider safeguards the SSL infrastructure to remain free from US or EU jurisdiction.

It’s not Gmail, it’s secure

While Protonmail isn’t as streamlined as Gmail, which syncs multitudes of user data across their devices, it sure gets the job done and that too without intruding into your life.

In the beginning, users might get a little flustered using Protonmail but with a little time, it’s easy to get around and actually feels a lot less complicated and cluttered than Gmail.

Apart from the above, the aesthetics are quite modern and interface is simple and is easy to understand. For users who are new to the world of data surveillance, the website has a list of blogs that they can visit.

There are arguments, understandably, for the misuse of such a highly secure service as we have seen in Cambridge Analytica case. Anyhow, for normal users, this service is a boon. Our data security is in our own hands. To this end, we highly recommend the users to try this email service.

Also read: What is PGP encryption and OpenPGP? How do they work?

Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here:

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