Update: Questioning ProtonMail 2021-12-19
Well... here we are, just a couple days later and Protonmail has sent me an email saying that I can double my storage if I just do the four things listed in the previously mentioned knowledgebase article. It goes on to say that I better hurry up about it.
Once you have taken these four actions, we will upgrade your storage to 1 GB. With 1 GB of storage space, you can keep even more of your emails and attachments secure and private. You have 30 days to complete all actions.
That seems pretty pushy. That seems like it is bordering on being a high pressure sales tactic. What am I doing here? Buying a used car? Seriously, I think these guys are becoming less trustworthy by the day.
Questioning ProtonMail 2021-12-17
So, ProtonMail is an email service that is supposed to be all about privacy and security. They like to gas on about how their location, storage methods, and fancy authentication are so vital to your privacy and security. They have a free email tier as well as a free VPN tier and by now nobody should be using an internet connection without having heard that "If you are not paying for the product, then you are the product.". The idea being that free services are able to run because they monetize you and your data. In the case of Proton, I guess they frame their free tiers as being paid for my the pay tiers.
So when I came across this Proton knowledgebase article it made me wonder whether the pay tiers are really the financial support for their free tiers. To be honest, I am a little skeptical, and I have to think that something else is going on here. For example, the article says that you can double your mail storage from 500MB to 1GB for free if you do all of the following:
- Import your emails and contacts
- Send your first message
- Set up a recovery method
- Try our mobile app (Available on iOS and Android)
But if you think about it, all of those things significantly increase Proton's ability to track and/or monetize you and your data. Importing your emails and contacts is basically a goldmine of information about you. And what happens to the plethora of GMail users who have had more than 1GB of email for years? How will all of those emails be imported in to a 1GB mailbox? I guess that would be the perfect opportunity to upgrade to a paid mailbox eh? As for sending your first message, that will (1) encourage the person you email to use Proton services as well and (2) give Proton the email address of someone you currently are in contact with [as opposed to some contact you have not heard from in years]. Setting up a recovery method will give them an existing unique identifier for you such as phone number or the email address you've been using for the last 20 years. And lastly using a mobile app will tie them to your uniquely identifying device that also happens to have a GPS, camera, and microphone.
Is it possible that it is just shit luck that Proton's mailbox size is pretty limited [VERY limited by the standards of other freemail providers] and that the requirements for increasing it without cost are all potentially privacy breaking? Perhaps, but I find that much of a coincidence hard to swallow.