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German Email Providers Push For End-To-End Email Encryption

Friday, July 17th, 2015

German email service providers are reportedly encouraging their customers to switch to end-to-end encryption. The largest of the email service providers, which includes Deutsche Telekom and United Internet, are soon planning to launch tools which would make it significantly easier for the customers to encrypt their emails and prevent them from getting spied on by the intelligence agencies. The good news is that the initiative has the full support of the German government which is in stark contrast to the approach adopted by the American and British governments as far as the surveillance of ordinary citizens is concerned.

Ever since Edward Snowden leaked details about NSA’s surveillance programs, the German public has become accustomed to hearing about surveillance programs that impact their privacy in one way or another. Last year, it came to light that the German spy agency BND had used a legal loophole to spy on its own citizens while a few days back it was revealed that the agency was collecting as many as 220 million metadata records every day. These kind of news have become a cause of concern in the country where privacy is still valued and fiercely guarded.

By announcing their support for end-to-end email encryption, German email service providers are also strengthening the “De-Mail” initiative which was announced by the German government in 2011. The government launched the service as a trusted email service as well as an e-government tool to reduce expenditure on paper mail. The service is being offered by Deutsche Telekom and Web.de but the response to it (especially from ordinary citizens) is not that great perhaps due to the fact that it requires a monthly subscription and identification at the time of joining. With the extra benefit of end-to-end encryption, the providers hope to attract a much better response for the service.It is noteworthy here that the German email service providers did announce their intentions to encrypt emails soon Snowden’s revelations surfaced online.

However, the encryption used at that time was not end-to-end since the emails were still scanned for viruses. This meant that emails could still be intercepted even though they were being encrypted. The new end-to-end encryption program would ensure that apart from the sender and the receiver, no one would be able to decipher the contents of the emails. The USP of the proposed encryption system, apart from end-to-end encryption, is its ease of use. As per the service providers, the system would allow users to encrypt emails through a simple browser plugin that would soon become available for Firefox and Chrome. The best part is that the encryption key would be stored on the customer’s device itself so that emails sent or received through it could not be compromised in any way. In addition, the plugin would be based on open source code to prevent the possibility of hackers or criminals hijacking it for their own gains. All in all, the German initiative is sure to unveil a new era in the market-suitable end-to-end encrypted email technology.

July 17, 2015

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