Email Recommendations

ProtonMail.com

ProtonMail.com

FREE

ProtonMail.com is an email service with a focus on privacy, encryption, security, and ease of use. They have been in operation since 2013. ProtonMail is based in Genève, Switzerland. Accounts start with 500 MB storage with their free plan.

Free accounts have some limitations and do not allow the use of the ProtonMail Bridge, which is required to use desktop email clients (e.g. Thunderbird, Outlook, and Apple Mail) or to search email by body text. Paid accounts are available starting at $48/Year which include features like ProtonMail Bridge, additional storage, custom domain support, and more. The webmail and mobile apps can only search To:, From:, Date: and Subject: (this is likely to change when v4.0 of ProtonMail is released).

Domains and Aliases

Paid ProtonMail users can use their own domain with the service. Catch-all addresses are supported with custom domains for Professional and Visionary plans. ProtonMail also supports subaddressing, which is useful for users who don't want to purchase a domain.

Transparent Dots

ProtonMail makes dots transparent in all addresses, including custom domain addresses, making them harder to spoof.

Ephemeral Emails

ProtonMail users can send expiring emails to other ProtonMail and non-ProtonMail addresses from their ProtonMail addresses and custom domain addresses.

Payment Methods

ProtonMail accepts Bitcoin and cash in addition to accepting credit/debit cards and PayPal.

Account Security

ProtonMail supports TOTP two factor authentication only. The use of a U2F security key is not yet supported. ProtonMail is planning to implement U2F upon completion of their Single Sign On (SSO) code.

Data Security

ProtonMail has zero access encryption at rest for your emails, address book contacts, and calendars. This means the messages and other data stored in your account are only readable by you.

Email Encryption

ProtonMail has integrated OpenPGP encryption in their webmail. Emails to other ProtonMail users are encrypted automatically, and encryption to non-ProtonMail users with a OpenPGP key can be enabled easily in your account settings. They also allow you to encrypt messages to non-ProtonMail users without the need for them to sign up for a ProtonMail account or use software like OpenPGP.

ProtonMail also supports the discovery of public keys via HTTP from their Web Key Directory (WKD). This allows users outside of ProtonMail to find the OpenPGP keys of ProtonMail users easily, for cross-provider E2EE.

.onion Service

ProtonMail is accessible via Tor at protonirockerxow.onion. Their Tor service is the second website to support https over Tor (the first was Facebook).

Extra Functionality

ProtonMail offers a "Visionary" account for $24/Month, which also enables access to ProtonVPN in addition to providing multiple accounts, domains, aliases, and extra storage.

Mailbox.org

Mailbox.org

$12/year

Mailbox.org is an email service with a focus on being secure, ad-free, and privately powered by 100% eco-friendly energy. They have been in operation since 2014. Mailbox.org is based in Berlin, Germany. Accounts start with 2 GB of storage, which can be upgraded as needed.

Domains and Aliases

Mailbox.org lets users use their own domain and they support catch-all addresses. Mailbox.org also supports subaddressing, which is useful for users who don't want to purchase a domain.

Transparent Dots

Mailbox.org does make dots transparent in their email addresses, which means firstname.lastname@mailbox.org and firstnamelastname@mailbox.org are received by two different inboxes.

Ephemeral Emails

Mailbox.org does not support ephemeral emails.

Payment Methods

Mailbox.org doesn't accept Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrencies as a result of their payment processor BitPay suspending operations in Germany. However, they do accept cash by mail, cash payment to bank account, bank transfer, credit card, PayPal and couple of German-specific processors: paydirekt and Sofortüberweisung.

Account Security

Mailbox.org supports two factor authentication for their webmail only. You can use either TOTP or a Yubikey via the Yubicloud. Web standards such as U2F and WebAuthn are not yet supported.

Data Security

Mailbox.org allows for encryption of incoming mail using their encrypted mailbox. New messages that you receive will then be immediately encrypted with your public key. This only protects message content while at rest so you should request that the sender encrypt the email message before sending in order to ensure confidentiality.

However, Open-Exchange, the software platform used by Mailbox.org, does not support the encryption of your address book and calendar. A standalone option may be more appropriate for that information.

Email Encryption

Mailbox.org has integrated E2EE encryption in their webmail, which simplifies sending messages to users with public OpenPGP keys. They also allow remote recipients to decrypt an email on Mailbox.org's servers. This feature is useful when the remote recipient does not have OpenPGP and cannot decrypt a copy of the email in their own mailbox.

Mailbox.org also supports the discovery of public keys via HTTP from their Web Key Directory (WKD). This allows users outside of Mailbox.org to find the OpenPGP keys of Mailbox.org users easily, for cross-provider E2EE.

.onion Service

You can access your Mailbox.org account via IMAP/SMTP using their .onion service. However, their webmail interface cannot be accessed via their .onion service, and users may experience TLS certificate errors.

Extra Functionality

All accounts come with limited cloud storage that can be encrypted. Mailbox.org also offers the alias @secure.mailbox.org, which enforces the TLS encryption on the connection between mail servers, otherwise the message will not be sent at all.

Posteo.de

Posteo

€12/Year

Posteo.de is an email provider that focuses on anonymous, secure, and private email. Their servers are powered by 100% sustainable energy. They have been in operation since 2009. Posteo is based in Germany and has a free 14-day trial. Posteo comes with 2 GB for the monthly cost and an extra gigabyte can be purchased for €0.25 per month.

Domains and Aliases

Posteo does not allow the use of custom domains, however users may still make use of subaddressing.

Transparent Dots

Mailbox.org does make dots transparent in their email addresses, which means firstname.lastname@mailbox.org and firstnamelastname@mailbox.org are received by two different inboxes.

Ephemeral Emails

Mailbox.org does not support ephemeral emails.

Payment Methods

Posteo does not accept Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies as a form of payment, however they do accept cash-by-mail. They also accept credit/debit cards, bank transfers, and PayPal, and claim that PII (personally identifiable information) that they receive in connection with these payment methods is not linked to your account.

Account Security

Posteo supports two factor authentication for their webmail only. You can use either TOTP or a Yubikey with TOTP. Web standards such as U2F and WebAuthn are not yet supported.

Data Security

Posteo has zero access encryption for email storage. This means the messages stored in your account are only readable by you.

Posteo also supports the encryption of your address book contacts and calendars at rest. However, Posteo still uses standard CalDAV and CardDAV for calendars and contacts. These protocols do not support E2EE (End-To-End Encryption). A standalone option may be more appropiate.

Email Encryption

Posteo has integrated encryption in their webmail, which simplifies sending messages to users with public OpenPGP keys. They also support the discovery of public keys via HTTP from their Web Key Directory (WKD). This allows users outside of Posteo to find the OpenPGP keys of Posteo users easily, for cross-provider E2EE.

.onion Service

Posteo does not operate a .onion service.

Extra Functionality

Posteo allows users to set up their own mailing lists. Each account can create one list for free.

Our Recommendation Criteria

Please note we are not affiliated with any of the providers we recommend. This allows us to provide completely objective recommendations. We have developed a clear set of requirements for any Email provider wishing to be recommended, including implementing industry best practices, modern technology and more. We suggest you familiarize yourself with this list before choosing a Email provider, and conduct your own research to ensure the Email provider you choose is the right choice for you.

Jurisdiction

Operating outside the five/nine/fourteen-eyes countries is not necessarily a guarantee of privacy, and there are other factors to consider. However, we believe that avoiding these countries is important if you wish to avoid mass government dragnet surveillance, especially from the United States. Read our page on global mass surveillance and avoiding the US and UK to learn more about why we feel this is important.

Minimum to Qualify:

  • Operating outside the USA or other Five Eyes countries.

Best Case:

  • Operating outside the USA or other Fourteen Eyes countries.
  • Operating inside a country with strong consumer protection laws.

Technology

We regard these features as important in order to provide a safe and optimal service to users. Users should consider the provider which has the features they require.

Minimum to Qualify:

  • Encrypts account data at rest.
  • Integrated webmail encryption provides convenience to users who want improve on having no E2EE encryption.

Best Case:

  • Encrypts account data at rest with zero-access encryption.
  • Allow users to use their own domain name. Custom domain names are important to users because it allows them to maintain their agency from the service, should it turn bad, be acquired by another company which doesn't prioritize privacy etc.
  • Support for WKD to allow improved discovery of public OpenPGP keys via HTTP.
  • GnuPG users can get a key by typing: gpg --locate-key example_user@example.com
  • Support for a temporary mailbox for external users. This is useful when you want to send a encrypted email, without sending an actual copy to your recipient. These emails usually have a limited lifespan and then are automatically deleted. They also don't require the recipient to configure any cryptography like OpenPGP.
  • Availability of the email provider's services via an onion service.
  • Subaddressing support.
  • Catch-all or aliases for users who own their own domains.
  • Use of standard email access protocols such as IMAP, SMTP or JMAP. Standard access protocols ensure customers can easily download all of their email, should they want to switch to another provider.

Privacy

We prefer our recommended providers to collect as little data as possible.

Minimum to Qualify:

  • Protect sender's IP address. Filter it from showing in the Received header field.
  • Don't require personally identifiable information (PII) besides username and password.
  • Privacy policy that meets the requirements defined by the GDPR

Best Case:

  • Accepts Bitcoin, cash, and other forms of cryptocurrency and/or anonymous payment options (gift cards, etc.)

Security

Email servers deal with a lot of very sensitive data. We expect that providers will adopt best industry practices in order to protect their users.

Minimum to Qualify:

Best Case:

  • Support for hardware authentication, ie U2F and WebAuthn. U2F and WebAuthn are more secure as they use a private key stored on a client-side hardware device to authenticate users, as opposed to a shared secret that is stored on the web server and on the client side when using TOTP. Furthermore, U2F and WebAuthn are more resistant to phishing as their authentication response is based on the authenticated domain name.
  • Zero access encryption, builds on encryption at rest. The difference being the provider does not have the decryption keys to the data they hold. This prevents a rogue employee leaking data they have access to or remote adversary from releasing data they have stolen by gaining unauthorized access to the server.
  • DNS Certification Authority Authorization (CAA) Resource Record in addition to DANE support.
  • Implementation of Authenticated Received Chain (ARC), this is useful for users who post to mailing lists RFC8617.
  • Bug-bounty programs and/or a coordinated vulnerability-disclosure process.
  • Website security standards such as:

Trust

You wouldn't trust your finances to someone with a fake identity, so why trust them with your internet data? We require our recommended providers to be public about their ownership or leadership. We also would like to see frequent transparency reports, especially in regard to how government requests are handled.

Minimum to Qualify:

  • Public-facing leadership or ownership.

Best Case:

  • Public-facing leadership.
  • Frequent transparency reports.

Marketing

With the email providers we recommend we like to see responsible marketing.

Minimum to Qualify:

  • Must self host analytics (no Google Analytics etc). The provider's site must also comply with DNT (Do Not Track) for those users who want to opt-out.

Must not have any marketing which is irresponsible:

  • Claims of "unbreakable encryption". Encryption should be used with the intention that it may not be secret in the future when the technology exists to crack it.
  • Making guarantees of protecting anonymity 100%. When someone makes a claim that something is 100% it means there is no certainty for failure. We know users can quite easily deanonymize themselves in a number of ways, e.g.:
    • Reusing personal information e.g. (email accounts, unique pseudonyms etc) that they accessed without anonymity software (Tor, VPN etc)
    • Browser fingerprinting

Best Case:

  • Clear and easy to read documentation. This includes things like, setting up 2FA, email clients, OpenPGP, etc.

Additional Functionality

While not strictly requirements, there are some factors we looked into when determining which providers to recommend.

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