Exclusive interview with ProtonMail co-founder Andy Yen on internet privacy


Developed by a group of MIT and Harvard students who forged a collaborative partnership while working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland, ProtonMail is focused on providing users one of the most secure, end-to-end encryption email services in the world.

With the rise of digital surveillance on ordinary citizens, ProtonMail strives to offer the strongest defense against unlawful spying. In the following interview transcript, Andy Yen, the co-founder of ProtonMail, shares his perspective on why internet privacy should be a fundamental right for all users.


Tim Smart: “Forbes Magazine and the Huffington Post both state ProtonMail is the future of privacy when it comes to email. Did the Wikileaks and Snowden files regarding the government’s spying on emails influence the creation of ProtonMail, and if so what were the legal challenges in creating ProtonMail?”

Andy Yen: “The Snowden files definitely spurred us to take action as it highlighted how much privacy rights were being disregarded even in the US, long considered to be the bastion of freedom and democracy. Switzerland is now one of the very few countries in the world where privacy is still well protected by the law. In Switzerland, an internet application provider like ProtonMail cannot be compelled to do surveillance on our users. Furthermore, all surveillance requests must go through the courts.”

With the growing number of leaks coming out over the US government’s spying on everyday citizens, ProtonMail could be the best alternative to both sides of the argument over privacy. Conservatives and liberals both agree that privacy is a human right and that illegal spying on citizens is unconstitutional. ProtonMail aims to capitalize on the distrust of other major email providers who have in recent years released emails and information to the government about its users. The tremendous support ProtonMail has received could be the result of a growing internet base that no longer wants to be associated with traditional email services that lack privacy protections.

Tim Smart: “ProtonMail has greatly surpassed its July 31st funding goal of $100,000, proving there is a consumer base that believes privacy is a fundamental right to online communication. What are the goals for the company in the future?”

Andy Yen: “We intend to continue to develop our technology and bring private email to more and more people around the world. Currently, we are working on our mobile apps.”

Tim Smart: “With the recent news of a billion accounts compromised worldwide by hackers, can you go into detail and explain how ProtonMail protects its privacy and manages its security compared to its competitors?”

Andy Yen: “ProtonMail utilizes a two password system, where ProtonMail does not have access to the user’s second password. This means users’ encrypted data is still safe even if an attacker somehow reads the data on our server.”

Tim Smart: “ProtonMail is being viewed as the new generation of communication online. Have you set an official public use launch date for ProtonMail?”

Andy Yen: “It is already available to the general public, there is just a waiting list for accounts as we have limited capacity. We anticipate the waiting list will be there for at least several more months as we scale up capacity.”

ProtonMail has the ability in the coming years to become a major email provider similar to Gmail and Yahoo. If you believe online privacy is a fundamental human right, then ProtonMail just might be the right choice for you.

About Author

As a student majoring in psychology and minoring in science, I understand the importance of keeping a human element in today’s growing technological world. I have been an avid gamer since the early Super Nintendo days. I believe the characters and stories that video games and films tell do play an important role in our society. I hope that one day with the use of technology and science that the quality of our lives will greatly improve.

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