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ProtonMail Attacks Gmail Over False and Misleading Marketing Claims

By Bill Toulas / June 22, 2019

ProtonMail decided to bash Google via a recent blog post, accusing them of misleading marketing strategies and confusion-inducing claims about the Gmail service and the associated “confidential mode”. According to ProtonMail, consumers can never enjoy real confidentiality on Gmail because there’s no end-to-end encryption to it, so Google can access and read the messages if they want to. Moreover, ProtonMail claims that Google is not deleting the messages that have expired, but instead chooses to keep them in their servers for whatever purpose or reason. Finally, since the recipient can take screenshots of the messages, the sharing restrictions mean nothing in reality.

Gmail’s confidential mode works by allowing users to set an expiration date for the sent message, as well as to require a passcode to open the email which is sent via SMS on the recipient’s phone. These messages cannot be downloaded, printed, or forwarded to other email addresses. However, Google is still using its servers to store the contents of the emails, and since these contents are not encrypted, then there’s always the risk of someone reading it. This includes either Google’s employees or hackers who may manage to access its systems one day.

image source: protonmail.com

ProtonMail makes a valid point on the misleading nature of the “expiration date”, by testing out and finding that the confidential messages are retrievable by the sender even after the set date, so they are still kept in Google’s servers. Finally, giving away your recipient’s phone number for the SMS code is constituting a further violation of the privacy of this person, as Google gets to know the number and link it with that person’s email address. Even if that person isn’t using Google services, the tech giant is collecting their sensitive information without their consent, and with all the data leaking risks involved.

Obviously, ProtonMail is openly bashing Gmail because Google is threatening to capture a piece of their niche market since the introduction of the confidentiality mode in 2018. Their service, however, is fundamentally different, as it comes with end-to-end encryption (private keys), so any messages sent between users cannot be read by ProtonMail’s employees since they don’t have the assigned keys. Moreover, when a ProtonMail user sets an expiration date, the message is really deleted when the time comes and is no longer retrievable.

image source: protonmail.com

We have placed ProtonMail high in our review, scoring an 8.5 out of 10, so we can definitely suggest it to those who want to secure their communications. In spite of the buzz created by the allegations of a Swiss lawyer recently, ProtonMail remains a solid choice that respects people’s privacy and security.

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