Rafficer has a long history of using Proton products and has even helped with a few development products. Rafficer has also been involved in moderating the Proton Mail subreddit. We interviewed Rafficer in 2021 to discuss his contributions to the Proton community.
Can you introduce yourself and your relationship with Proton?
My name is Rafficer — that’s the name I use anywhere I interact with Proton. I feel like I’m just another community member, though obviously I do notice that I’ve contributed a lot more to the subreddit and Proton’s projects than the average community member has.
It all started with me being very active on the Proton Mail and Privacy subreddits. That’s where some of the team members from Proton noticed me. Then at one point, they wrote to me to say how thankful they were for my support. That really encouraged me, and I became even more active in the community as a result.
That led to me writing the Community Linux CLI for Proton VPN. That’s probably my biggest contribution to the Proton community.
Was it through Reddit that you came to hear of Proton in the first place?
It wasn’t, actually. I created my Proton Mail account in late 2016, and it was after I created my account that I found out a lot about the importance of privacy. Then I became a lot more privacy conscious.
I discovered Proton through a news site that had written about an encrypted email provider — it was an overview of Proton Mail. I thought it was pretty cool, it seemed like a great project, and I believed it would grow into something bigger. So I signed up and reserved my name on the platform to make sure no one else could take it.
Of course, setting up a new email account without having any emails delivered to it is kind of useless. I was using Gmail before that, and while I knew that it wasn’t very private, I hadn’t done anything about it.
I knew I should switch to Proton Mail, and it’s also just a cool way to interact with email — knowing that everything you put there is private. Knowing I could write anything there and there was no way that anyone could see it fascinated me. So I also became very interested in how encryption itself works.
If you have an important physical document locked up in a safe, it would always be possible to get to it, no matter how secure that safe was. What fascinates me about encryption in general is that if I encrypt something with a strong encryption algorithm, I know it’s secure.
Of course, this is just for the time being, and you never know how well computers and encryption will evolve; encryption from 20 or 30 years ago is useless today. But for the time being, I can say with confidence that my file is secure and that no one else can get to it. So that’s what kind of awoke my interest in using Proton Mail.
From there, it was mainly Proton Mail’s “fault” that I got into the whole privacy thing even more. I’ve learned a lot through the subreddit — in that sense, Proton helped me, too. I’ve learned a ton of things. It’s more like Proton Mail found me and brought me to privacy rather than the other way around.
How would you describe the Proton Mail Reddit community?
The Proton Mail subreddit has a huge amount of community interaction, especially with the team at Proton Mail itself. Proton isn’t a start-up anymore, it’s grown into a really big company, but it’s so rare that you see a big company interacting with people on Reddit in the way that Proton does.
In the early days, the subreddit was mostly made up of people asking questions, with knowledgeable people answering them. That was the main purpose of the subreddit back then. Now it has grown to include people with different opinions and lots of discussions, which I really enjoy. There’s also a lot of feature requests going on in there.
The Proton subreddit has gotten really big over the years. I remember being excited that it grew to 5,000 members — but now it’s at over 80,000 subscribers!
How has Proton changed since you first started using it?
Proton has definitely changed the way they build their products. These days, Proton is targeting a much broader audience, whereas in the early years, Proton was really just for people who were actively seeking out private email. Initially, Proton seemed to cater to this small niche of users who wanted to use PGP in a way that was easier than setting it up themselves. Proton Mail also allowed you to use PGP in webmail instead of having to use a client like Thunderbird, so you could still access your emails if you were away from your regular device.
In recent years, Proton has really bridged the gap between the hardcore privacy enthusiasts and people who are just interested in becoming more private. With the latest release of Proton Mail, there’s a really appealing look and feel for the average consumer, which of course is a much bigger market than just targeting those already seeking privacy.
It’s like Proton is saying, “Look, we have a solution here for a problem you don’t even know you have!”
Using Proton Mail now is in no way different from using any other email provider from a consumer’s perspective. If you set someone up with Proton Mail for their first ever email account, they would never even notice that their emails were encrypted.
Of course, Proton Drive is now in beta. It’s the most important tool for me personally, so I’m really looking forward to the day that I can entirely switch everything over to Proton Drive.
I’m really grateful that through all this time, Proton has decided that whatever they do, they will handle the least amount of personal data possible. Although they can never entirely eliminate user data, it’s just great that Proton designs apps with that in mind. Even if they wanted to access data, they often can’t.
For example, when they released the security for Proton Calendar, they showed how it would be signed with a digital signature. This meant that even if Proton were to edit your calendar entries from the server side, it would fail verification and deliver a warning to the user. That’s a completely overlooked feature, but it proves the length Proton will go to with their development to build these kinds of features so that even theoretically, they can’t edit calendar entries without you noticing. I really like that this is the core philosophy that Proton is sticking with.
Why do you think privacy and security are important?
I think the biggest reason people should care about their privacy is that you cannot look into the future. For example, using Google with all the associated data collection over the last decade would have had few, if any, negative outcomes for most people, you have no idea if that will change. It’s possible that someone could begin leading the government in your country who would use that information about you and your browsing history against you. It is a drastic example, but it is one we should be aware of.
As you can’t know what is in the future, you should really be cautious about the data that you put out there. Planning for the future is not a wild concept. We do it all the time (for example, with a savings account or a pension), yet for some reason, very few people plan for the future in terms of their private data.
I believe that the abuse of data is something that has to be prevented by the legal system. Sadly, so many people who are making laws don’t seem to understand the threats.
Furthermore, even if the company you give your data to does nothing bad with it, you should still be careful. It’s not unheard of for companies to have data breaches. You have no idea if companies with your data have some kind of security vulnerability.
Finally, the data you share doesn’t just affect you. For example, my friends and relatives have my number in their contacts that they might share with Facebook or Google, even though I never agreed to share it with that company. It might just be a string of numbers, but the whole contact file — maybe including my address, email address, full name, or birthday — can include information that can be used to identify me.
How are Proton’s products part of your life now?
Well, I’m not using another email provider, and I’m always connected to Proton VPN on my laptop and my phone. It’s not like I’m doing anything hardcore every day — I just set it and go. That’s the great thing about it; you don’t even have to think about it to be more private every day.
Get involved with the Proton community
You can join the official Proton Mail subreddit to read the latest news about Proton and our products. You can also get involved and make feature requests, ask us questions, and take an active part in shaping Proton’s future. You could even become the next Rafficer.