Best Gmail alternative for privacy and security

Douglas Crawford

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Proton Mail was created to help build a more free and open internet that puts people first. This makes it a great Gmail alternative for those who value privacy and security. Founded by scientists who met at CERN, Proton Mail protects all messages with end-to-end encryption(new window) and zero-access encryption(new window) to ensure nobody can access your emails’ contents. 

As the world’s most popular secure and privacy-focused email service, our ethos and business model are very different from email services such as Gmail, which scan users’ inboxes and make money from advertising. 

We never spy on our users’ emails, and our service is ad-free. We are based in Switzerland, which is famous for its neutrality. And as a company that puts people first, our interests are perfectly aligned with those of our users.

Tech giants such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook make fortunes from invading the privacy of users. They also exercise a worrying degree of control over the internet. Until 2017, Google scanned all emails sent to or from Gmail users to help build detailed profiles of its users that would allow it to target them with highly personalized ads.

It has since promised(new window) to stop this practice, but it continues to scan emails so it can offer features such as Smart Labels and add travel details to Google Calendar, trading privacy for convenience. Google also scans all the receipts(new window) you receive in Gmail and stores the data for years, even if your purchases are not from Google.

Simply put, nothing sent via Gmail should be considered private.

In this article, we explain what factors to consider when searching for a Gmail replacement service and how Proton Mail addresses these. Proton Mail offers a free plan that takes only a few seconds to get started with, so it’s easy to try it out for yourself. (No personal data is required to create a free account.)

Better than Gmail privacy

Unlike Gmail, Proton Mail was built from the ground up with privacy and not data collection as our primary focus. 

  • This starts with our use of strong encryption to ensure nobody can access your messages or abuse them for advertising purposes. Proton Mail can’t spy on your emails, even if we wanted to. 
  • We minimize the collection of metadata, for instance, by turning off IP logging by default. And no personal information is required to create a free account.
  • As a Switzerland-based email provider, your data is protected by strong Swiss privacy laws. This makes it impossible for us to share any of the (little) data we have with foreign countries without an order from the Swiss authorities.
  • Our Privacy Policy(new window) is short, straightforward, and easy to understand.

In short, Proton Mail’s goal is to provide you with a private inbox that you can use to send and receive messages securely. Gmail’s goal is to collect more of your personal data so Google can use it to target you with ads. This becomes clear when you compare the two app’s different approaches to data collection.

True security

All emails are secured in transit using TLS encryption and are stored on our servers with zero-access encryption using your private key. This means even we cannot read any of your messages or hand them over to third parties.

For additional security, all emails between Proton Mail users are secured with automatic end-to-end encryption(new window). This means that emails are encrypted by you on your own device and can only be decrypted and read by the intended recipients.

It is also possible to send end-to-end encrypted emails to non-Proton Mail users. Proton Mail also includes native support for the OpenPGP(new window) email encryption standard, enabling interoperability with existing PGP users.

Because we store all emails sent or received using zero-access encryption, they are safe from being exploited for profit by services such as Google. 

Open source and independently audited

Unlike Gmail and many other popular email services, Proton Mail is free and open source. This means anyone can examine the code for all our apps to ensure it does what it is supposed to, and only what it is supposed to.

We use only time-tested and trusted encryption algorithms to secure emails, such as AES, RSA, and OpenPGP, utilizing only open source cryptographic libraries. The code for our web and mobile apps is available on GitHub(new window) for anyone to access, and independent security professionals have audited it. 

Based in Switzerland

It is worth remembering that Google was a long-term partner in the NSA’s PRISM mass surveillance program(new window), exposed in 2013 by Edward Snowden. All tech companies based in the United States remain subject to National Security Letters(new window) (with accompanying gag orders) and other surveillance demands authorized under FISA, the Patriot Act, and other similar legislation.

Proton Mail is based in Switzerland, a country that is home to some of the strongest data privacy laws in the world. It also has no affiliations or history of cooperation with US security services and their allies(new window).

All of our data is stored in multiple data centers in Switzerland and Germany that we operate without relying on third-party cloud providers. Only Proton Mail employees have access to this infrastructure.

Gmail is not truly free. Proton Mail is.

Much of Gmail’s popularity stems from the fact that it costs no money to use. It is, however, a prime example of the old adage that “if you’re not paying for a service, then you are the service.” Google’s entire business model is to invade its users’ privacy in order to profit from targeted ads. 

Proton Mail’s mission is to make privacy, security, and freedom accessible to all. Providing a genuinely free email service available to everybody is therefore central to our mission. And unlike with Gmail, our core product is genuinely free. Free users enjoy the same privacy and security protections as users who choose to upgrade to a premium plan.

Proton Mail exists to serve our community, and it is thanks to our passionate and dedicated community that we can offer a free service. 

If you opt for a paid plan, you will get extra storage and additional features. (See our plan options(new window).) But our free email service will always remain free and provides all the core functionality most email users require.

Easy migration

To make the transition from Gmail as smooth as possible, we have developed an Easy Switch tool to transfer emails from your old account to Proton Mail. 

We also have a detailed guide on how to Migrate from Gmail to Proton Mail(new window).

Our web and mobile apps are easy to use, and for Gmail users, there is no learning curve to adapt to our interface.

Developing a privacy ecosystem

Our vision is to develop an ecosystem of encrypted tools dedicated to protecting our users’ privacy. In 2017, we launched Proton VPN to protect users’ internet activity from internet service providers and bypass blocked and censored content. 

We have since expanded our products to include Proton Calendar(new window), which keeps your events private, and Proton Drive, our upcoming end-to-end encrypted cloud storage solution.

These tools are designed using the same end-to-end encryption that powers Proton Mail. 

Join our mission

Proton Mail is now the largest privacy-focused email provider in the world, with tens of millions of users. Our company is profitable and growing thanks to the passionate support of our global community. 

You can witness our impact not only in the many journalists and activists who rely on our services to conduct their work safely in high-risk zones but in the millions of everyday users whose data is protected by default.
We envision an internet in which privacy, security, and freedom are accessible to everyone, everywhere. While Google and the other tech giants have made this more challenging, the Proton community is making a meaningful difference. By signing up(new window), you too support this mission. Thank you.

Frequently asked questions about Gmail alternatives

What is the best alternative to Gmail?

Proton Mail is as easy to use as Gmail and offers many popular features, such as undo send and calendar (now with Android support).

We also offer many features Gmail does not have, such as self-destructing emails(new window) and end-to-end encryption.

Proton Mail has invested heavily in the physical infrastructure needed to run a world-class email service, owning and controlling our own server hardware at several locations around Switzerland and Germany. Our users’ data is never stored on-third party cloud services.

Is Proton Mail safer than Gmail?

Google is good at securing your data against criminal hackers and the like. What this does not do is make your data safe from Google, a company whose massive profits are driven by exploiting its users’ privacy for financial gain. Also, because Google does not use end-to-end encryption, your personal data could potentially be exposed if there is a data breach.

Unlike Gmail, Proton Mail respects your privacy. Messages can be sent end-to-end encrypted even to non-Proton Mail users, giving you total control over your own data. Additionally, our zero-access encrypted storage means that we can never provide the contents of your messages to third parties or use them for advertising purposes.

What is the best free email account to use?

Proton Mail offers a genuinely free email service. And unlike with Gmail, you do not pay for it with your privacy.

You may choose to upgrade to one of our Plus, Professional, and Visionary plans to help support this free service and gain access to additional storage and some advanced features, but our free service provides everything most email users need. It will also remain free forever.

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Feel free to share your feedback and questions with us via our official social media channels on Twitter(new window) and Reddit(new window).

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Douglas Crawford

Starting with ProPrivacy and now Proton, Douglas has worked for many years as a technology writer. During this time, he has established himself as a thought leader specializing in online privacy. He has been quoted by the BBC News, national newspapers such as The Independent, The Telegraph, and The Daily Mail, and by international technology publications such as Ars Technica, CNET, and LinuxInsider. Douglas was invited by the EFF to help host a livestream session in support of net neutrality. At Proton, Douglas continues to explore his passion for privacy and all things VPN.

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