Proton is taking its privacy-first apps to a nonprofit foundation model

submitted by AnActOfCreation edited

arstechnica.com/gadgets/2024/06/proton-is-takin…

  • Proton, known for its secure email and productivity services, is transitioning to a nonprofit foundation model, ensuring it remains mission-focused without reliance on external subsidies.
  • The Proton Foundation, now the primary shareholder, is located in Switzerland, which mandates that foundations act according to their established purpose, bolstering Proton's commitment to privacy.
  • Proton has expanded its offerings to include cloud storage, password management, calendars, and VPN services, all designed with end-to-end encryption and hosted in Switzerland, enhancing its privacy-first approach.

We believe that if we want to bring about large-scale change, Proton can’t be billionaire-subsidized (like Signal), Google-subsidized (like Mozilla), government-subsidized (like Tor), donation-subsidized (like Wikipedia), or even speculation-subsidized (like the plethora of crypto “foundations”)," Proton CEO Andy Yen wrote in a blog post announcing the transition. "Instead, Proton must have a profitable and healthy business at its core."

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20 Comments

TropicalDingdong

Ok. I will now seriously consider moving over to proton. I can't trust a for-profit buisness to stay true to its mission. However, Open-AI has shown that I can't blindly trust a non-profit to do so as well, but its 'towards' being able to trust.

bolexforsoup

The nice thing is proton has been slowly making more and more of its codebases open source, and has consistently done the right thing despite whatever winds of change come their way. I have had proton unlimited for about a year now and I am so glad. It was a great way to remove Google from my life but it didn’t require a particularly high level of technical knowledge. It’s a little clunky at times, but honestly it works very well.

Lord Wiggle

I've had it for about 8 years. Those years were a treat. "oh hi! We just created another product which would make your life easier and more safe. We just added it to your prescription for free. Have a nice day!" I started with free email, I started paying when they introduced vpn. They just keep on delivering, year after year, they never disappointed me with any decision they made. I just wish there were more companies like proton: creating the best product they can, for the good of the customer and for society.

deweydecibel , edited

That's kind of what I'm thinking too.

Legitimately, the degree to which proton advertises, the sheer amount of blog spam and such, made me very, very resistant to it. I really don't care how private it all is or how well it works, I have spent enough time on the internet and engaged with enough small tech company services to recognize a fierce push for growth, and experience has taught me to avoid a for-profit company that sells to you that hard. One day the growth will stop, and the cannibalizing begins.

But a move to a non-profit model is, at least theoretically, a move in the right direction. I'm more willing to engage.

I still don't trust that they won't change their mind down the road, but it's a start.

And the point about OpenAI is moot because being non-profit doesn't make the actual purpose of the company any less shitty. Especially when Microsoft was feeding it money for the purpose of harvesting what they would create. They still had shitty motives and created a tool that is very ethically "questionable" at best, and that was true from the very beginning.The fact their ethics team was gutted the moment they tried to exercise their purpose tells you everything.

The non-profit company created a tool that will be used primarily by for-profit companies and hurt individuals. The moniker barely applies.

Lumisal

OpemAi had a for profit division though

didntwemeetin2007

As does Proton?

Avid Amoeba , edited

Well, I had to subscribe to Proton now. 🥹

SkaveRat

great. thanks to you, the nonprofit is making a profit now

craig9

Nonprofits are allowed to make a profit. They just have to roll it back into the operation. (Can't hand it out to shareholders, board members, etc.)

GamingChairModel

Well they can pay compensation to people who do work for them: employee salaries, contractor work, etc. So the nonprofit structure might prevent them from paying dividends or stock buybacks or other ways of transferring directly to shareholders in their capacity as shareholders, but nonprofit structure alone isn't a guarantee that the organization won't steer excess cash into someone's pocket.

No reason to believe this is true of this non-profit, but that's the reason why it's important to look at the books of nonprofits that you donate to.

craig9

All good points. 👍

hswolf

let's just host all these services for free am I right? who needs to pay energy bills anyway

AutoTL;DR

This is the best summary I could come up with:


"We believe that if we want to bring about large-scale change, Proton can’t be billionaire-subsidized (like Signal), Google-subsidized (like Mozilla), government-subsidized (like Tor), donation-subsidized (like Wikipedia), or even speculation-subsidized (like the plethora of crypto “foundations”)," Proton CEO Andy Yen wrote in a blog post announcing the transition.

The announcement comes exactly 10 years to the day after a crowdfunding campaign saw 10,000 people give more than $500,000 to launch Proton Mail.

To make it happen, Yen, along with co-founder Jason Stockman and first employee Dingchao Lu, endowed the Proton Foundation with some of their shares.

Among other members of the Foundation's board is Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of HTML, HTTP, and almost everything else about the web.

As Yen noted, Swiss foundations do not have shareholders and are instead obligated to act "in accordance with the purpose for which they were established."

But compared to most service providers, Proton offers a far clearer and easier-to-grasp privacy model: It can't see your stuff, and it only makes money from subscriptions.


The original article contains 356 words, the summary contains 169 words. Saved 53%. I'm a bot and I'm open source!

haulyard

I’ve not looked in a bit. Has their integration with Apple mail on MacOS improved? I remember it (or some other part of their service) requiring a separate app to try and get things working.

pacmondo

If you want anything encrypted you need the bridge still

Zacryon

Ecosia did something similar.

nexusband

Deleted by author

gian , edited

Wait, they give Europol access if and only if a swiss judge order it. They protect your privacy but neither you or them are above the law.

AnxiousDuck , edited

Complete and unrestricted access, following a court order, to the data *they have access to*, this does *not* include the contents of your emails or the files in your drive, which are e2ee.

Last time I read about something like that was them giving away an email address iirc.

piracysails

Source on that? Genuinely asking.

catloaf

None, because it didn't happen.

The police wanted information about an account, so Proton gave them everything they had, which was the recovery email address. That's it.

TheGrandNagus

Only to the data they have access to, which isn't much as pretty much everything is E2EE and logging is minimal or in many cases non-existent.

And "I won't support any company that complies with the law" is certainly a take.