Best Gmail alternative for privacy and security

An illustration of choosing an alternative to Gmail.

ProtonMail 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, ProtonMail protects all messages with end-to-end encryption and zero-access encryption 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 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 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 ProtonMail addresses these. ProtonMail 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, ProtonMail 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. ProtonMail 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 is short, straightforward, and easy to understand.

In short, ProtonMail’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 ProtonMail users are secured with automatic end-to-end encryption. 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-ProtonMail users. ProtonMail also includes native support for the OpenPGP 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, ProtonMail 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 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, exposed in 2013 by Edward Snowden. All tech companies based in the United States remain subject to National Security Letters (with accompanying gag orders) and other surveillance demands authorized under FISA, the Patriot Act, and other similar legislation.

ProtonMail 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.

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 ProtonMail employees have access to this infrastructure.

Gmail is not truly free. ProtonMail 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. 

ProtonMail’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.

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

Users with Plus, Professional, and Visionary plans get extra storage and additional features. (See our plan options.) 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 Import Assistant tool to transfer emails from your old account to ProtonMail. 

We also have a detailed guide on how to Migrate from Gmail to ProtonMail.

 

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 ProtonVPN 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, 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 ProtonMail. 

Join our mission

ProtonMail 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, you too support this mission. Thank you.

Frequently asked questions about Gmail alternatives

What is the best alternative to Gmail?

ProtonMail 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 and end-to-end encryption.

ProtonMail 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 ProtonMail 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, ProtonMail respects your privacy. Messages can be sent end-to-end encrypted even to non-ProtonMail 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?

ProtonMail 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.

***

Feel free to share your feedback and questions with us via our official social media channels on Twitter and Reddit. Note that while blog comments also remain open, questions and feedback will not be responded to individually. Where relevant, we will incorporate the most frequently asked questions or comments into a blog update.

About the Author

Douglas Crawford

Douglas has worked for many years as a technology writer in the cyberprivacy and cybersecurity sector. He is now very pleased to work for a company with a mission that he passionately believes in.

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41 comments on “Best Gmail alternative for privacy and security

  • I’m an admin of a family email, currently hosted on G Suite. I have less than 10 users, 2 domains, multiple aliases, etc. Some users are using close to 10GB of space (although we should be able to reduce that). If I wanted to migrate to protonmail and keep those features, it would cost me close to 60 euro a month. I could pay this much per year, but not more. You should reconsider your pricing. Many services I’m using (and paying for, e.g., bitwarden, duo) have family plans which do not destroy our budget.

    Reply
    • Hi H. Unlike Google, which makes money from invading your privacy, the only way ProtonMail makes the money it needs to offer the services it does (including a 100% free email service) is via charging the prices we do for access to premium features.

      Reply
  • So I create an account with ProtonMail but everyone, and I mean everyone…else is using gmail, yahoo, hotmail, etc. etc. Just how secure is my “information” then? I think I understand a ProtonMail user transmitting an email to another ProtonMail user has their message(s) encrypted and the messages are secure. However, what happens to this security when a ProtonMail email is sent to one of these other email users? or to a business email? or ???? What exactly do I gain by being secure on only one end of the transaction??

    Reply
  • I appreciate Protonmail, but the hardest for me to leave Google is photos, will you guys be doing something similar in the future?

    Reply
  • If I sign up for Proton email, do people who receive my emails need to be in Proton too? If not, when they get the email, I assume their system will not be protected. Is this correct?

    Lana Anthony

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  • I’ve only been with Protonmail Visionary for a few days, but at least I like the webmail service already.

    The calendar is in urgent need of expansion. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be possible to share a calendar with other users in my subscription. A feature I’ve been using for a good 20 years now. So not really a new issue.

    But what really can’t even begin to compare to GMail is the Android app. Almost nothing works there. The font is almost impossible to read, as small as it is. Then the share function doesn’t work at all, so I can’t share anything into the mail client. Then the app is extremely slow to use on a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. Mail read in webmail still appears unread in the app. Folders and categories are not synced properly, etc. pp.

    So actually you can’t do anything with the app. Because with the font size you can not see the mails anyway, what is there.

    In general, the apps are honestly, and I do not know how I can put it nicer, just junk. Google could do that better 10 years ago.

    What you have completely forgotten in the bridge, that nowadays you have many devices that also send mail. Be it the Raspberry Pi, which wants to send a mail after the end of 3D printing or the router, which wants to give notice of problems or the telephone system, whose answering machine can no longer send mails. From fax, whose mails now also can no longer be received.

    It needs a bridge, which does not need a screen or X11, does not only run on the AMD64 platform and above all can be used within the home network.

    The VPN, however, is top notch. Super performance and easy operation.

    Reply
  • “And no personal information is required to create a free account.” That seems to have been quietly changed: now an email address is required to create a free account. Identifying someone from their email address at most email providers is trivial, so no longer very private. I understand you have a different purpose for this, but we’re now required to trust yet another service provider with our information. There must be a better way. I imagine it would be trivial to introduce some kind of throttling that would make spam sources easy to control.

    Reply
  • Much is made of the notion that ProtonMail is Swiss based. But the article indicates that data is held in servers in Switzerland and Germany. What, if anything, is the privac/security/legal impact of having data stored in Germany?

    Reply
  • Appears to be an editing oversight on this paragraph: The following sentences in bold seem redundant, if not entirely duplicative.

    ProtonMail 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. Switzerland is also home to some of the strongest data privacy laws in the world.

    Love the service, by the way. Thanks for all you do

    Reply
  • Two comments:

    First, about this sentence: “…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.”

    If this is to mean that you store the messages in encrypted form, and therefore no one can access them, even Protonmail, then it should be written more clearly to convey that Protonmail cannot access the emails at all, and therefore obviously cannot use their contents for any purpose, including to share them with others. The way the sentence reads right now, it suggests that Protonmail simply can’t use the data for the purposes described, which is entirely different from not being able to use the data at all. The subheading “zero access” doesn’t do the trick either — that has a marketing ring to it, which makes one suspect it’s possibly only inaccessible to some people some of the time. While such distinctions may be obvious to the writer and those familiar with the inner workings of Protonmail, most readers won’t understand these concepts unless they are made crystal clear.

    Second comment:

    Advertising in many respects is the least of our problems. For one example, Google uses the data to target vulnerable minds with YouTube videos promoting extremism: hate, racism, religious fundamentalism, conspiracies, and the like. The algorithms Google employs to push increasingly extreme content at people uses effective psychological manipulation techniques aimed at addicting users and playing on their deepest insecurities.

    You will never convince most people to switch from Gmail to Protonmail until you get much better at illuminating the dark side of the “free” platforms, which are really behavioral modification programs that are undermining personal sovereignty and democracies globally.

    Most people care nothing about digital privacy when it comes to targeted advertising. I’ve been evangelizing Protonmail to people for years to otherwise intelligent, thoughtful folks, and there is no real will to protect privacy to prevent targeted advertising. People actually like targeted ads!

    Try asking your writers to read (or re-read) Jaron Lanier’s books “You are not a gadget” and “10 Reasons…” for ideas on how to articulate truly convincing arguments to switch from Gmail to Protonmail.

    I’ll be happy to share the more convincing articles with my friends and colleagues. While certainly well meaning, this article just doesn’t cut the cake.

    Thanks for listening, and for Protonmail’s great work!

    Reply
  • Thank you for creating ProtonMail.
    Thank you caring about human privacy!
    It is amazing that you have been able to create the quality services like you have in a business model that has unwavering ethics and transparency at its core.
    Google’s revenue from ads is around 200 billion dollars! $200,000,000,000 USD!!!!!!!!!!!
    I would think impossible to compete with, but somehow you guys are doing it!

    Reply
  • Well , yes proton mail is great, my only gripe with them is , the support system , when something goes wrong it takes a very long time to resolve, they need to hire more thecky people to help with issues. We are not all genius in this internet world, sometimes we need help. Otherwise it’s great, I have 2 myself , one free, one upgrade with VPN. I love them 99.99% of the time, lol.

    Reply
  • Gmail totally has self-destructing email. From the dates of the comments on the original announcement y’all had it first, but they have had feature parity there for a few years now. So y’all might want to remove that phrase from your marketing selection – unless there’s something I’m missing in implementation differences?

    Reply
  • I switched to Proton because of gmail’s insecurity and inability to contact their privacy department to make a complaint about their lack of protections.

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  • Do you have discounts for those if us who are senior citizens? USMC veterans or fed up with being spied upon?

    Reply
  • Hello, I think that you’re omitting one detail, which it not obvious for everyone.
    Even if the e-mail’s contents is encrypted, the envelope isn’t – it can’t be, can it?
    So, the e-mail’s metadata, such as sender, receiver, date, network hops, and even the subject line are always publicly visible. This is technically required for e-mails to work (as the “postman” must know from who it delivers to whom).
    Basically, no e-mail service is 100% private, because it cannot be due to technical limitations of the protocol.
    While it’s not a problem of ProtonMail itself, I think it would be a good idea to notify about this, so that people don’t really think they can’t be tracked because they’re using an encrypted email.

    Reply
  • What to do with androidphones? You need a gmailaccount for it in order to work…
    I use another mailprogram, but I don’t know how much is still registered by google (mail) on my phone.
    Alternatives are few if you don’t want Apple.

    Reply
  • Why I have not migrated from gsuite is the lack of security key support (ie yubikey). Something I have been requesting, but seems like user security doesn’t seem to be a priority for your company?

    Reply
  • Keep up the great work folks. As an old it guy I believe in what you are doing and in my own small way am an advocate for both the mail and vpn services.

    Reply
  • The only current issue I have with the app is that it constantly gives the error message/toast “No connectivity detected” even though I never lose connection and have zero issues with other apps. Not sure if it’s related, but I use systemwide DOH (DNS over HTTPS). You seem to have fixed all the app bugs except for this persistent error (which doesn’t affect usability – it’s just annoying).

    Reply
  • Just wanted to mention that for me one of the reasons I chose ProtonMail over Gmail was cause my Gmail accounts were getting hacked to easily. I all so moved to Protonmail for privacy and better security.

    Reply
  • I already have a proton Mail account. I’m assuming it is already encrypted. Is this correct or do I need to do something else to it? Please advise.
    Thank you!

    Reply
  • Thanks, Douglas. I think it would be helpful to have an Import Assistant email to forward to friends and family along with a short but impactful email message. “Wake up–Change up!” Your privacy is at stake!” and maybe have some quotes by former FB and Google employees about how there privacy is invaded, if possible a link to one of their youtube interviews or the ‘Social Dilemma’ movie–I finally got my older son to get an account and still have yet to get my younger son to get one–I can’ t exactly recall how I did the import but it was a google feature and I also saved some to an external drive.

    Reply
  • I have moved to Proton because of a growing deluge of junk mail. Ok it goes to the Junk box but I find it disturbing how varied and oftend disturbing these emails (never opened) appear to be.

    I found this article most interesting and informative and fee the details should be made more public.

    How true is the saying – you get what you pay for!

    Reply
  • Thank you for your informative email. I don’t really use Gmail but require it to download apps from the play store (android). This aspect is not covered by protonmail, is it?

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  • C’est sympa tout ça je viens de recevoir la lettre mensuelle de proton
    Une partie est en français mais tout le reste en anglais
    C’est bien joli de déblatérer sur Google
    Mais comme je ne comprends pas l anglais
    Je suis obligé d’utiliser chrome comme navigateur pour la traduction
    Ce qui est pour le moins que je puisse dire frustrant

    Reply
  • The statement “[…] 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.” is sadly not true.
    Switzerland was actually aware and even benefited of the fact that the Swiss company was secretly jointly owned by the CIA and the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst, (west-)German intelligence service) from the Cold War until recently (2018).
    Crypto produced compromised encryption machines. According to Swiss Parliament investigation (<a href="
    https://www.parlament.ch/centers/documents/de/bericht-gpdel-2020-11-10-d.pdf&quot; title="in German"), "Swiss intelligence service were aware of and benefited from the Zug-based firm Crypto AG’s involvement in the US-led spying".
    The story was revealed by The Washington Post, ZDF (German public service broadcaster) and SRF (Swiss public service broadcaster) in 2020.

    Reply
  • Good article. I shared it to my Farcebook newsfeed, so all my contacts there will be exposed to ProtonMail’s service. I will do likewise with my MeWe, Parler and Telegram contacts.

    Reply
  • Since all my accounts such as FB &others that were set up using gmail to connect all accounts on my Android devices from start , just wondering if I can do this without causing any glitches to the information I have already stored with Google …ie My Google photos will I still have access to this.?…have thought of doing this but thought might be complicated to recover all my data . Also most of my correspondences/contacts are on Whatsapp …..can I still use these apps safely? I also have been using yahoo as my primary email for receiving subscriptions etc.

    Reply
  • Douglas muchas gracias por su titánica labor en pro de la privacidad de los usuarios, desde Colombia te envío un abrazo.

    Reply
  • I am excited to hear of Proton mail, my old gmail account was censoring and fact checking my emails from all sources which I think is bad business. I am telling everyone about proton!

    Reply