StartMail’s Commitment to Privacy in an Era of “Free” Services
Two of the most used internet services are search engines and emails, two services that most people use as free services. But as Alex van Eesteren, Director of Business Development of StartMail said “only the sun comes up for free.” Free products online often come with a cost, and that cost is usually personal data and information. Profiles are built around users and data is sold to a wide range of advertisers and companies. That environment is what led to the creation of StartMail in 2013 because “every individual deserves the right to privacy, to be themselves, and think freely, as long as it does not infringe upon the rights of others,” as put by CEO and Co-Founder of StartMail Robert E.G. Beens.
StartMail is celebrating their 10th anniversary this year but their journey goes even further back with the creation of a privacy search engine, Startpage, in 2006. Startpage’s founders were shocked at the amount of personal data being stored and were keen to create a new search engine with privacy at its core. In the years following, the Startpage team began to think about what would be the next step in offering privacy to users and email became the obvious choice. StartMail was founded and they built an email system from scratch, with privacy and giving users power to control their own data as a vital part of their mission.
Instead of using their users data as a revenue model, StartMail charges a small fee for their service which allows them to prioritise user privacy and follow their mission that believes privacy is a fundamental right. StartMail’s CTO Ronald Evers explains that they “ensure email privacy through secure servers located in the Netherlands, adhering to stringent European privacy regulations, state-of-the-art encryption methods for data protection.” This is in addition to features like robust spam blocking, end-to-end encryption, password protected messages, and phishing protection to make each inbox as safe as possible. StartMail only keeps logs for seven days, far less than other providers and deleted logs and emails are gone for good. Alex van Eesteren sees their standout feature as the ability to create unlimited email aliases, which are disposable email addresses to keep your main email address free from spam and phishing, as well as allowing users to sign up for online services without handing over their real email address to untrustworthy sites.
StartMail is one of HSD Campus’ longest tenured members having been located at HSD Campus since 2016 where their team has grown to where it is today. Being located at HSD Campus has given them opportunities to meet influential people and companies within the cybersecurity industry. One such connection was Phil Zimmermann, the inventor of today's most widely used email encryption software PGP. Phil became an advisor of StartMail for their first couple of years and as Alex mentioned, “that’s all because of HSD.” Alex went on to add that “it’s great being part of this community”, mentioning the ability to take part in events at the campus and around The Hague such as ONE Conference. Both StartMail and HSD Campus are looking forward to another successful ten years of privacy and a prosperous future.