Yahoo, Google and Apple all claim they have a right to read your email. Google even sent out a notice to system users about how it does it. And we all know the federal government is collecting untold quantities of information about Americans from the Web.
And then there are the hackers.
So what would consumers think of having access to encrypted email, giving them control over who can read their messages?
We’re about to find out, based on an announcement at the fifth annual Privacy Identity Innovation conference, called pii2014 Silicon Valley, at the Crowne Plaza Palo Alto hotel.
There, StartMail.com announced the launch of a private email service that includes revolutionary, one-click, PGP – or Pretty Good Privacy – encryption.
Already, there have been more than 20,000 requests for subscriptions to the service.
“It’s time people start using encryption for their everyday communications,” said CEO Robert Beens. “So we’ve made it easy. StartMail is Web-based, supports IMAP, and has great privacy tools like disposable email addresses and Q&A encryption.”
The demand for the product was evident when more than 70,000 people signed up as beta testers or for early accounts, StartMail said. There are competitors, if you trust Microsoft to guard your confidentiality.
But Beens said StartMail’s success is largely because of Edward Snowden’s revelations about government surveillance, along with concerns that Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail are scanning people’s private communications for marketing purposes.
“Consumers are ready for a change. They’re fed up with dragnet government surveillance and the ‘stalker economy,'” he said.
Snowden’s advice had been for people to protect themselves with encryption, but few have had access until now.
StartMail, headquartered in the Netherlands, said it makes the benefits of encryption available to consumers with a one-click option for security. Additionally, the company is based outside the United States, so it is not directly subject to U.S. mass surveillance.
The company has made clear it does not cooperate with programs like PRISM.
And it was launched by the team that also put StartPage.com and Ixquick.com, the world’s “most private” search engines, on the Web.
The company states it “does not mine customer data for marketing revenue, and never reads people’s email.”
With no advertising revenue, costs are covered through subscriptions.
“Society pays a high price for those so-called ‘free’ services, so we’ve taken a different path,” said Beens. “We answer to our customers, not marketers or government agents. By supporting us, our users are staking a claim in the privacy revolution. We believe everyone has a right to communicate securely. That’s why privacy is not just our policy. It’s our mission.”
“Emails of millions of people will suddenly be private, out of their view,” she told WND. “Here’s the reason why this is important. … Not only do companies read emails, there are these vacuum cleaner programs that sweep up everything.”
“After 15 years of warning people about the invasion of privacy,” she said. “It’s exciting to have a product to recommend.”