Ben is a part of Proton’s localization community. He is a volunteer proofreader for the French versions of Proton’s products, validating translation proposals made by the translators to make sure they are consistent and intelligible for their intended French-speaking audiences. Most recently, Ben has been helping with the French-Canadian version of Proton in response to high demand from Canada.
Despite a full-time role in IT project management and busy family life, Ben still finds the time to help Proton in our mission to make our products accessible to everyone. Ben is dedicated to the issue of software accessibility, something motivated, in part, by being mobility-impaired himself.
Could you tell us the story of how you first got interested in privacy?
“I have always had an interest in privacy, but not to the degree that I do now.
I discovered the internet around 1999 and started out as the same naive user that many others were: I was looking for free content without much interest in anything else because putting money into something so intangible didn’t seem to make sense at the time.
The post-September 11 period was a trigger for me, I think. The legalized and trivialized violation of the privacy of millions of people in the name of anti-terrorism made me understand that everyone’s privacy was potentially in danger, including those who respect the law.”
In what sense were you naive when you first started using the internet?
“When the internet first started to be democratized in France, few people thought that this formidable network could pose a risk to their privacy. It was a new space of freedom, and at no time did people think that everything put on it could be recovered without our knowledge for collection, logging, advertising, scamming, etc.
Everyone wanted to believe in a global and open network that could bring people together. Nobody thought at that time that it could also be a place for bad people and organized crime.”
Can you share your thoughts on the importance of privacy and security in today’s world?
“I think privacy is of paramount importance to everyone.
Personal data can go around the world in milliseconds, be sold multiple times to unknown organizations, end up in databases, all without your knowledge.
I’m all for, and I respect, the work of law enforcement, but I think that governments who seek to weaken encryption are unaware of the risk they are subjecting normal people to. I think every citizen should be able to access the internet using strong encryption without backdoors.”
How did you first hear about Proton? What made you want to localize our products in your language?
“I had been involved in open source projects in various forms for several years. Then, following a serious accident, I had several long months of physical inactivity. That’s when I signed up on Crowdin to participate in the community and give some meaning to my inactivity.
In May 2017, I crossed paths with a ‘little community’ called Proton Mail. I thought it was a great idea, so I applied to contribute to the localization effort.
There was nothing like it in France, but it was obvious that without a solid French version, Proton was unlikely to be successful here. So I joined the community.”
What is the importance of translating the Proton apps into French?
“The reality in France (especially in the countryside) is that languages are taught very poorly by the education system, except in the border regions. I know many people who are put off by English, and as soon as an app or a web page is in English, they automatically turn away from it.
If they have a choice between a tool that is good for their security, but in English, and a tool that is in French that is average, or even bad, for their security (like WhatsApp, Facebook, Google, etc.), they naturally go for what they understand. Because mentally, it doesn’t require any effort.
I’ve noticed how in just a few years, most people have gone from an email address provided by their ISP (Orange and Wanadoo were the most popular at the time in France) to a free email address provided by Google, which is even worse for their privacy.
That’s why I thought it was important to help the community. Proton is good for personal safety, but it would reach fewer people if it was only in English, which would be a shame. I also believe that the quality of the French translation, or lack thereof, attests to the seriousness and care taken with the product itself. If people see a good translation, they are more likely to believe the product itself is good and are more likely to use it.
I think this attitude towards translation is bearing fruit. As more and more people become concerned about the security of their data, they can find at least one safe and secure email service in their native language!“
What do you enjoy about being a Proton localizer?
“Localizing Proton’s products in my language is an opportunity to make this fantastic tool accessible to the greatest number of my fellow French citizens. It means I am helping to provide them with something that will really help and protect them.
It doesn’t matter if you are 12 or 72; with Proton Mail, you can create an email address that doesn’t belong to GAFAM, and that will help you to protect yourself against commercial or criminal exploitation.”
What is it like being part of the localization team?
“It’s great to be part of this team. There are a few people who have stayed for a long time, and I work well with them. It’s very pleasant. With time, you can even spot each other’s habits and rhythms in the work.
I translate on an iPad in the evenings, on weekends, and during my holidays, because that’s when I have the most time. The community has grown a lot in the last three years. For my part, I try to make sure that the apps are translated so that when you use Proton products, you wouldn’t guess that it has been translated at all.
More than anything, I like to see an interface in impeccable French. I like to think that my effort is perhaps contributing in its own way to the success of Proton, at least for the French part!
Being a translator and proofreader is not glorious. You’re in the shadows, and when it is done well, people don’t even know you were there. But that’s not the most important thing for me. I just like to know that I have contributed for the pleasure of it, and especially because I know that it is useful to those who need it.”
Do you have any advice for people who are interested in joining the localization team?
“Don’t do it to pass the time, do it because you want to be part of a team that serves the Proton community. You should have a good level of French or whichever language you will be translating to, but if you don’t feel comfortable, vote for the proposed translations instead. This helps a lot in the proofreading phase and lets you build confidence before you start.”
Get involved with the Proton community
Proton’s localization team is improving online privacy and security around the world by making our apps available in all major languages. You can join the 800+ people who make up the Proton localization community and contribute with your own translations or support others by proofreading or voting on their translations.