ProtonMail: the Private Email Service That's a Middle Finger to the NSA

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Inspired by the Edward Snowden leaks, a group of Harvard and MIT students have created ProtonMail, a secure email system based in Switzerland that guards you from access from prying eyes, including the NSA's.


The level of encryption of the email system is so robust that not even the owners of the site can read the emails you're sending. Jason Stockmon, one of the creators, told the Huffington Post that he came up with the idea while working at CERN in Switzerland. The site itself is located in the country known to have the world’s most rigorous privacy laws.

The site picks up where others left off after a string of events forced Lavabit, the leading service for secure email, to be shut down. Lavabit provided 400,000 people with secured private email accounts, including Edward Snowden. It’s creator, Lavar Levison, was left no choice but to shut down the company after the FBI indicted him with a mess of legal proceedings in order to have him turn in the company’s encryption keys.


Detailed in the Guardian, Levison endured a nightmare scenario where he had to forfeit 10 years of his work to be able to avoid violating the very principles he based his company on: privacy.

In retrospect he had this to say, “Courts must not be allowed to consider matters of great importance under the shroud of secrecy, lest we find ourselves summarily deprived of meaningful due process. If we allow our government to continue operating in secret, it is only a matter of time before you or a loved one find yourself in a position like I did, standing in a secret courtroom, alone, and without any of the meaningful protections that were always supposed to be the people's defense against an abuse of the state's power…”

The new founders of ProtonEmail noted that they do face concerns with their new technology.

"One of the challenges with systems like this, in addition to folks who just want more privacy and peace of mind, is that this is the kind of service that criminals will flock to," Stockmon the Huffington Post. "You can either have a world where you've got private communications or not. There's not a middle ground."


The site is free to use and much simpler than other secure email sites that require you to download software and encrypt parts of the emails yourself.

Julian Reyes is a VR Producer for Fusion.

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