ProtonMail joins to protect the privacy of Hong Kong citizens

Hacker’s Dictionary. The popular encrypted email app funds two democratic organizations to ensure the confidentiality of citizens of the former British protectorate after the approval of the Chinese National Security Law

by Arturo Di Corinto

The air in Hong Kong has become unbreathable. And not just for tear gas. Since China wanted and obtained the new National Security Law, the former British protectorate is in danger of turning into a police state. A set of measures designed to eliminate privacy, widen censorship and restrict free speech have destroyed the idea of ​​that autonomous and democratic Hong Kong we had known through the oceanic student demonstrations. Even the next elections that were to be held in September will be postponed with the excuse of the pandemic, so much so that the democratic movement cries out to cheat. In the meantime, those who resist organize themselves using innovative and secret forms of communication: coded tatzebao, symbologies derived from role-playing games and, of course, encrypted communications.

For this reasons ProtonMail, the popular encrypted e-mail service has decided to take the field to help the cause of democracy by donating 50% of July and August revenues to two civil rights organizations: 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund and Stand With Hong Kong.

The 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund provides financial, medical and psychological support to people arrested during pro-democracy demonstrations and includes Hong Kong bishop emeritus Joseph Zen, civil rights lawyer Margaret Ng and activist for LGBT rights Cyd Ho.

Stand With Hong Kong, on the other hand, is an organization that supports the Hong Kong democratic movement with international public opinion awareness campaigns and information pressures on governments.

ProtonMail aims to raise approximately HK $ 1,000,000 (US $ 130,000) for the two organizations to foster freedom of expression as the installations of ProtonVPN, the secure browsing app and bypassing web censorship, they increased in Hong Kong by 3000%, reaching the third position in the reference app store.

In fact, to overcome the Great Wall of China, ProtonVPN could become essential to secure people from any accusation of “subversion”, including gossip, and to escape the tactics that the Chinese government uses with its citizens: false accusations, censorship, unjustified searches, secret trials, forced confessions and torture.

ProtonMail, created by Jason Stockman, Andy Yen and Wei Sun at CERN, the Geneva Center for Nuclear Research — where the Web was born -, thanks to the contribution of an international community of cryptographers and scientists, is in short giving a lesson of that which is called social responsibility to all the big players in the sector who turn a deaf ear to the invasion of privacy by Hong Kong users.

Since the company was founded by scientists who met at CERN in 2013, ProtonMail has helped over 20 million people easily secure their email communications with end-to-end encryption.

ProtonMail succeeds thanks to the total control of its infrastructure which is located in Switzerland under a thousand meters of rock and is free and open source: with a small subscription of a few euros a month it is possible to activate several secure e-mail accounts and, if the interlocutor did not have a ProtonMail account, he could still exchange encrypted messages using PGP. The protocol created by Zimmermann is in fact fully integrated by its mobile and web application, for iOs and Android.

The original article has been piublished for the leftist italian newspaper Il Manifesto (5.8.2020, 23:59)



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Arturo Di Corinto

Teacher, journalist, hacktivist. Privacy advocate, copyright critic, free software fan, cybersecurity curious.