Paypal Freezes ProtonMail Campaign Funds

UPDATE 1: 7/1/2014 0900h, Still no response from PayPal, our campaign page can still be viewed here. Credit card and Bitcoin contributions are still possible at this time.

UPDATE 2: 7/1/2014, 1700h, PayPal has let us know that the restrictions on our account have now been lifted and we have been able to extract our funds. Thank you for your support on this matter, it no doubt played a large part in getting PayPal to do the right thing in record time.

This morning, we received an email and telephone call from PayPal notifying us that our account has been restricted pending further review. At this time, it is not possible for ProtonMail to receive or send funds through PayPal. No attempt was made by PayPal to contact us before freezing our account, and no notice was given.


Like many others, we have all heard the PayPal horror stories, but didn’t actually think it would happen to us on our campaign since PayPal promised, very recently, to improve their policies. Unfortunately, it seems those were hollow promises as ProtonMail is now the latest in a long string of  crowdfunding campaigns to be hit with account freezes. (For examples, just look here, here, and here).

While the $275,000 ProtonMail has raised in the past 2 weeks is a large amount, it pales in comparison to many other crowdfunding campaigns that have raised sums in excess of $1,000,000 so we can’t help but wonder why ProtonMail was singled out. When we pressed the PayPal representative on the phone for further details, he questioned whether ProtonMail is legal and if we have government approval to encrypt emails. We are not sure which government PayPal is referring to, but even the 4th Amendment of the US constitution guarantees:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures….”

It seems PayPal is trying to come up with ANY excuse they can to prevent us from receiving funds.


As a result, we have disabled PayPal as a payment option on our campaign page, but it is still possible contribute with credit card and Bitcoin. Please help us get the word out there as by bringing attention to this issue, we may be able to convince PayPal to do the right thing. And if anybody from PayPal is listening, we’ve emailed and called today, please get in touch with us as soon as possible.

To view our Campaign, Click Here

About the Author

Andy Yen

Andy is the Founder and CEO of ProtonMail. Originally from Taiwan, he is a long time advocate of privacy rights and has spoken at TED, SXSW, and the Asian Investigative Journalism Conference about online privacy issues. Previously, Andy was a research scientist at CERN and received his PhD in Particle Physics from Harvard University. You can watch his TED talk online to learn more about ProtonMail's mission.

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92 comments on “Paypal Freezes ProtonMail Campaign Funds

  • Can you provide us with specific instructions as to how to contribute with bitcoin and be able to grab one of the perks? It appears we can’t contribute using the checkout system at Indiegogo as it only includes credit cards as an option.

    Thanks in advance.


  • Needing government approval to encrypt emails. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It’s even a legal obligation to secure your website if you handle sensitive data. Being too secure isn’t a crime, but it’s the exact opposite. It sounds to me you spoke to a representative who had no idea what was going on either. And he was just making stuff up. So much for customer service.

    I hope this will get sorted soon. Unlike some other projects that PayPal held hostage you even have a working and fully functional product to show for it. So there really is no excuse for them to question this project.

      • Funny, Ebay as Paypal’s parent company lost millions of user data! I think, you can see a basic principle in Ebay / Paypal: Don’t trust encryption!

  • I tought by now, everybody knows what a f***ed up company Paypal is?!

    Why on earth do you need to use them to collect your funds???

    Thats like if Greenpeace would accept donations in Shell vouchers.

    Please use your brain!!

    It’s 2014!

    Please stop using Paypal or stop wondering that they freeze your money with bullshit arguments.

    Why do you write “For the time being, we have disabled PayPal…”.
    Looks like you have no problem using them any further as soon as they unfreeze your funds.

    Do you never learn???

    You have nobody to blame but yourself for using this devil and now you pay the price.

    • Unfortunately, PayPal payments was a feature a lot of our contributors requested so that is the only reason we added in PayPal in the first place.

      • Well, that could have been the first mistake. No one knows your business better than you and you need to be able to explain the problem with Paypal to your contributors. With a proper design, the lack of a Paypal option should not prevent users from donating.

        • The main problem is that not everyone has a creditcard…. for example it is not really common to have one in the Netherlands and so PayPal is the only way to contribute.

        • Well, I dis-agree there. It’s what the customer wants, providing it doesn’t degrade the service offered.
          Paypal may stick, but I think Protonmail added them to make things easier for some people.
          Obviously they can’t be trusted.

      • Thanks for a reply.
        Sorry if I sounded a bit harsh on my message 😉

        I believe you, that alot of your supports wanted to use paypal,
        but I guess it’s only for the reason that they don’t know any other payment service that is that easy to use.
        And probably most of them have no clue about paypals background.
        But you should know better.
        A simple statement about why you are not accepting paypal as an option would have been enough i think,
        You can refer to the Wiki article about paypal which explains a bit about what they have done so far.

        I’m still supporting you and hope you have learned your lesson the hard way.

  • …. Why did you not consider bitcoin and credit card in the first place? … with so many complaints with paypal over the years.. and I highly doubt you will see a resolution any time soon, Paypal red-tape takes years to resolve .. Google it … what a shambles …, Best thing to do is Urge your contributors to File for a refund and tier up support … that will teach their sorry asses …

    Hate Paypal for this reason..

      • Actually, we do NOT recommend users ask for refunds. PayPal would consider those refunds to be chargebacks AGAINST ProtonMail and use it as an excuse to keep locking up the funds.

        • ProtonMail,

          Is there a way you can check to see if you received by payment via PayPal last week? On my end it was a successful transaction. I sent an email to for a follow up on my $149 contribution for instant access, but haven’t heard from you. I assume you can’t even look at transactions in PayPal because of this freeze and who has donated.

          Thanks for keeping us up to date on the matter and hang in there. We are rooting for you!

          • Hi, you should have received an email from us about your perk already. Please check your spam folder if you didn’t get it. If it is not there, email and we will make sure the instant access invitation gets to you. Thanks again for your support!

  • You guys should really make your Bitcoin presence felt more. I looked for a way to contribute with BTC when day one of the IGG campaign kicked off, but found nothing. Bitcoin is censorship-free and since the currency itself is a product of cryptography, it only makes sense.

    Keep your heads up. This is an idea worth fighting for.

    • It is in our FAQ section, unfortunately Indiegogo doesn’t support bitcoin yet, so we had to add our own link in the FAQ section of the campaign page.

      • For crypto guys you really have to sharpen up. Why would you leave your money in a place lime PayPal? This all sounds a bit convenient as well, trying to create street cred – funds siezed because we encrypt emails REALLY weak reason and I am sure you could bring criminal proceedings against PayPal in Switzerland. The Swiss will then carry out a criminal investigation and issue warrants for PayPal execs and no cost to you. Lets see the action

        • We’ve said from the start that we don’t like PayPal, unfortunately too many people use it so we had to accept it.

  • This is fucking ridiculous. I was thinking of taking payments for my small business with PayPal. Is this still a good idea?

    • Not really. Use Bitcoin and some other credit card processor. Paypal has delusions of grandeur – it thinks it’s a “too-big-to-fail” bank.

    • Don’t listen to the fan boys. Bitcoin is not a better option. Imagine waking up one morning to find out BC has tanked 20% and you just lost your profit margin. Or worse, the money is simply gone with no financial backing for insurance purposes. Stick with what is tried and tested, set up a merchant account. Millions of dollars in contributions should not be trusted to a short lived fad.

        • Cash out to fiat daily? LOl.

          Shall we talk about the very real possibility of an overnight dollar collapse? Eventually the consequences of all the government’s criminal activities will manifest. From what the movers-and-shakers are saying — probably sooner rather than later.

  • I am done reading about this crap. If they don’t release your funds within 1 month me and thousands of bots will utilize the internet to crash any credibility PayPal has left. I am so fed up with this company robbing others and then blackmailing them.

    “Are you allowed by your Government to sell offer encryption for mail”? What kind of bizarre and perverted question is that?

    We have had enough. is NOTHING compared what we have been working on for the last 4 months. This is it. 30 days from now on, mark my words.

  • Just put a fucking Bitcoin donation button on your site. Create a wallet with multibit wallet or other offline service and let us donate directly.

    (I would not use Coinbase to host your coins b/c they are centralized and can also cancel your account for any reason if they want, just PayPal)

  • Screw those tyrannical bastards at Paypal! Bitcoin lets you be your OWN bank, with no centralized institution standing in the way of your freedoms. Bitcoin, Bitcoin, Bitcoin!

  • SWARM with counterparty, be an early adopter, a first mover. Or remain at the mercy of PayPal and the fiat monopoly money system.

  • Credit cards are next. That’s how it went with WikiLeaks. These US-based companies are being pressured to restrict funding avenues for organizations the government doesn’t like.

  • this only confirms the fact that PayPal are Government spooks in disguise…Pierre Omidya is a skunk and once again his rancour permeates the cybersphere…simply disengage the cable from the pod and jettison PayPal into deep dark space…

    “Open the pod bay door”

  • What WE CAN DO now, send the following e-mail to Paypal:

    Message: Dear Sirs, just to inform you of my decision to stop using my PayPal account until ProtonMail’s Indiegogo Campaign funds are released.

  • Same happened during the Mailpile ( crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo. I think it was finally fixed in their case without losses, so you may learn something from the Mailpile team if you talk to them.

    By the way, the combined use of ProtonMail’s email server with Mailpile’s email client might turn out to be interesting.

  • if you would have used bitcoin from the start i would have even joined in on the crowdfunding.
    i didnt want to use my credit card on it just cause bitcoin would have been more convienient…
    dont bitch about paypal relaunch your crowdfund with bitcoin


    Learning from the past: you can read in the above link (under the “10 months ago” post) that, thanks to the community pressure, Paypal’s freeze of Mailpile’s funding campaign was finally reversed, and that they even end up donating to the project. Hopefully it will work out the same way for ProtonMail.

    e-mail them:,,

  • What the hell is going on in the USA ? What is the true executive in this country, who decides what, where is democracy ?
    I am stunned with PayPal’s latest hysteria concerning ProtonMail’s account.
    As well as many others who are starting to be sick and tired with PayPal’s moods, if this problem is not resolved within by August 1th, 2014, I shall close my PayPal account. Fed up with the nerve of this company.

  • Are you guys able to refund past payments? If think this isn’t disable with this kind of freezed account. You could just refund every payment that you guys received, most people would donate again by credit card.

  • The only thing I can say is that Paypal did to your project an incredible publicity. Now I will remember the name Protonmail for a long time, thanks Paypal.

  • “but didn’t actually think it would happen to us on our campaign”


    So i guess you are saying you are making a smart product or service.
    but you are dumb as rocks.

  • “When we pressed the PayPal representative on the phone for further details, he questioned whether ProtonMail is legal and if we have government approval to encrypt emails.”

    Remember Bush administration ? : “You are with us or against us”

    “We are not sure which government PayPal is referring to, but even the 4th Amendment of the US constitution guarantees:”

    Washington does not care about the constitution, they violated every day.
    Ask Snowden.

    There is no privacy for anybody according to the different administrations of united states .(Clinton, Bush, Obama)
    Ask hundreds of swiss banks they persecute since decades.

    as YXZ said
    > Please use your brain!!

    > It’s 2014!

    Avoid $.
    Avoid united states.
    Stop give power to the tyran.

  • Well, it’s was a massive mistake to involve the MIT and employing an American company for payments handling. Sorry to say this. Aren’t there enough banks in Geneva?

  • PayPal – we’re done! I’m closing my account today! After promises by your CEO, this one reeks of utter stupidity, and the fact that you treat access to funds like a lightswitch without calling people or emailing people first is just too heavy handed. Screw you and good riddance!

    I’ve already contributed to the IGG campaign, but in a show of continued support I’m sending some BTC later this morning.

  • Not sure if this is accurate or not (not a hacker) but to anyone who might be interested in fighting back with the same amount of legality PayPal does here is a link that just appeared on Pastebin. It says that PayPal may be vulnerable to certain attacks.

  • go on Facebook and SHARE SHARE SHARE!!!!!!!! Bring as much attention to this as possible. Also regarding the 4th Amendment.

  • Yet another example of how disgusting and backward Paypal is. Who the hell do they think they are “Do you have government approval to encrypt emails” You dont bloody need gov approval to encrypt emails.

    Guys, when you get your money from the Paypal crooks, never, ever, ever, ever, ever use them again.

    All the best to you.

  • We sent you 99 Dollars for three perks using PayPal. Now it seems this Money is “frozen”. This is not what we ordered PayPal to do and we will ask them about our money.
    If the PayPal Money we sent you will not be unlocked, in a week we will pay the double via credit card, to support you. Just continue your work!

  • Has Paypal said exactly which country(s) laws are the basis for which they are freezing the funds?

    It is also conceivable that Paypal has been hit at some point with a National Security Letter of some order and scope that in some way makes them think that allowing this funding to go through would be a violation. They can’t disclose the existence or content of the letter, so they have to make up something.

    It could say “Paypal must turn over all records and data relating to encryption technology… blah blah blah”. The FBI itself states that use of encryption is a “suspicious activity” that is associated with terrorism.

    I hate to say it, but with TrueCrypt biting the dust and “reccomending” to use BitLocker, and now this, it is just more than a coincidence.

  • thank you very much for your project.

    Paypal sux
    CC sux
    BITCOIN is a great idea BUT just ask 10 oridary people on the street where u can get/buy them.

    and “Bitcoin lets you be your OWN bank” this is only true IF u mine them ur self or if you trade
    them for goods or cash money – otherwise its stilled controlled by banks and finally the feds.

  • A demonstration on many levels of ProtonMail’s effectiveness. PayPal also restricts commerce in firearms and related.


  • That paypal often blocks accounts for long times without claiming any good reason is nothing new. There are plenty of pages mentioning this, including wikipedia. Sometimes even an Arabic surname is enough.
    For that reason, I have never used it even for ebay. If a buyer insisted in using it, I simply canceled his purchase.
    When a lot of private people like me are so cautious, I find surprising that a company raising thousand of $ cannot apply the same common sense.

    “People asked us to provide it” it ‘s not a justification. Having a paypal account is very naive. Even more it is leaving so much money on it. What are you saying? It’s not you who left all that money, but paypal’s policy to keep it for 90 days? Well: if you knew that, then this is naive.

    Please educate people in using serious alternatives instead. If they ask you to use paypal, then let them know that there’s also a safer, simpler and less monopolistic thing called “bank transfer”.
    And for projects that are likely to be disliked by USA & NSA, and therefore hampered by such means, even money sent in an envelope has more chance to reach the beneficiary.

    I truly hope that you will manage to get your money unblocked, but even more that people will learn something from this umpteenth paypal block. Do not use paypal, for anything.

  • *please add*

    so if this project is planning to accept *COINS it need to be considered that (if you have strong enemies)
    that these *COINS might never be exchanged to “digital” money on a common bank account – no matter
    what exchange portal u use. I don’t say it is impossible but it might get very complicated and cost
    a couple of COINS – it might also be complicated to announce that in the company financial balance <3
    A possible solution might be that the projects directly pays its "service contracts" etc. directly via *COINS.
    (pppppst… and thats the classic idea of *COINS). So if you (and its seems * does) still calculate "X amount
    of *COINS are X amount of currency" you are on the wrong train – well at least not on the "yipiii censor ship free" one.

  • As soon as I get more Bitcoin I’m going to be sending more money your way and that’s on top of what I already donated with my credit card.

  • With a take of %5, imagine the amount of money PayPal will be enriched from this fundraiser guessing that amount is the actual commission agreement. What are they upset about? PayPal comes onto the scene to create a safety net of sorts between two people wanting to do business and somehow evolves into the BANK OF OVERLORD-NESS. The money isn’t theirs, they get their take and they should shut up, leave the ball on the playing field and let business commence. How about the Proton team consider developing their own safety net between people wanting to do business with strangers. The irony would be that you developed a way to put PayPal OUT OF BUSINESS~ 😉

  • Perhaps ProtonMail could expand their encryption expertise into crypto-currency with a client as user friendly and secure as ProtonMail.

    I dabbled in Bitcoin/Satoshi a year and more ago, giving up when my database/program became corrupted.

  • PLEASE do not continue using PayPal! Their assurances are meaningless and it is only a matter of time before they try something like this again. Allowing them control over your funds puts them in an obvious state of power and it is better to be safe than sorry. Just please, please ditch them or at the VERY least do routine extractions so you never have a potentially damaging amount in there at any time.

    As others have said, the money may appear to trickle in for a while but is will be money that you can be sure you’ll be able to keep. People who are willing to donate money will find alternatives means to do so if they are serious enough about it. You guys have it down on the technical front but I would urge you to think a bit more strategically going forward. Your service is going to anger a lot of people who want free reign over everyone’s communications and they are certainly NOT above breaking the law to make that a reality.

    Thank you for developing this service. I am really looking forward to using it!

  • My sympathies! I’ve heard several PayPal horror stories and this seems like yet another one.

    If I may give a suggestion, it sounds like you need to move to a better service, say which is dedicated to crowdfunding independent business ventures.

    Good luck! All the best!

  • Just a thought for ProtonMail team, you could add a Bitcoin address on your homepage for a parallel campaign and update daily on how much contributed,I wouldn’t be surprised if donations overcome your original campaign. 🙂

  • I just revoked my credit card on PayPal. They don’t deserve me. I don’t trust the USA, nor any of their wretched affiliates. It’s all a big bunch of corporations, anyways.

  • using paypal was a really really big lapse of judgement to begin with.
    i would rather give my assets to a random stranger!

    but am happy that through your experience, more and more people learn to boycott paypal 101%!
    one should not use it for at least 10 years.

  • If you give your bankaccountno. and city, we can pay. Or implement iDEAL so that also Dutch supporters can contribute.

  • I can clearly see they don’t want ProtonMail to work. So now PayPal froze the funds to put pressure on, I guess. It seems like a dream but I hope we are able to get ProtonMail. This news was just heartbreaking. I was thinking about getting a free account once the campaign ends.

  • I had an account with paypal, but I’ve never used it, because I do not trust them.
    Twee weeks earlier I removed the PayPal account .
    Use since a month paysafe, which is anonymous and secure.
    3V Visa voucher also used, but that’s just what they are criminals as expense accounts, was also removed for no reason € 5.00, and complains never works .

  • I fully understand the administrators attempt to widen out in their zeal to get what is a great concept off the ground as quickly as possible, but allying yourself with Paypal, owned by eBay and ready and willing to drop their pants and deny freedoms wherever and whenever the NSA tells them to, was as you now know, a bad idea.

    With their last CEO change, the eBay board has been talked into the Amazon route in hopes of greater ROI… The problem of course is that Amazon does a wonderful job of being Amazon and as Sears and others have learned, beating them at their own game is an uphill battle. eBay is paying the price by losing the unique and difficult to find items and collectables market of both buyers and sellers that they had accumulated; they are now morphing into just another also-ran, and performing like one as well.

    Anyway, back to the issue at hand… I haven’t investigated it yet, but surely there must be payment and fund transfer services based in Switzerland or another European country where U.S. spying agencies have a difficult time exerting pressure? At issue of course is contributor anonymity, but again, someone somewhere overseas must have recognized such an obvious business opportunity… particularly now that so many abuses have been laid open by the Snowden documents and other whistle blowers.

    I have to agree with some of the other posters though that to cave-in and accept the services of an entity as infamous as Paypal could compromise the trust ‘model’ to your subscribers to which you aspire.

    Many commenters on here might take my viewpoint and suggestions as a bit harsh, but I’m afraid I will stand by them anyway… Besides all the hard work you’ve already done, and continue to do, you are going to have to aggressively investigate alternate and widely accepted services for your contributors to use. This may even entail a groundbreaking and innovative approach, but nonetheless, this perhaps unexpected hurdle deserves your full attention.

    I think that a much larger group than you are aware of, comprising a new emerging ‘underground’ community of free thinkers is waiting to see who forges ahead and finally solves what has proven to be the downfall of now defunct safe communication enterprises that tried before you; start-up and continued growth financing.

    I would like to personally thank you for taking this bold step towards ensuring the safety of others, and sincerely hope that various machinations by the Russian backed Kaspersky, the puppet organization U.N., backed by the U.K. and the U.S., as well as the Chinese, Koreans and others are unsuccessful in their attempts to take over full control and entirely censor the web, which would make this particular discussion valueless.

  • Paypal is or was the same company as ebay, right? This is the same ebay that doesn’t even, in 2017, use HTTPS / SSL for its internal ebay members’ messaging system (where HIGHLY personal and private data is constantly exhanged). I checked this before, and it seems to have regressed… Was trying to send my IMEI to an unlocker – for a non-critical device (yeah, not very private, trusting some random ebay guy with a piece of private data like that). I’m not going to offer it OPENLY to anyone with ability to packet-dump the subsequent UNencrypted message. The seller being completely ignorant of this wasn’t helpful either.
    All should or do have a minimum legal obligation to encrypt and generally protect their customers’ personal data. This falls WAY short. The laws on data protection should carry a $100 fine PER USER. Not a $2. If that doesn’t work, then $1000, or $10,000 – and fund the government prosecutors better than their corporate lawyer adversaries, so it sticks and hurts the abusers of our data where it might finally make them reconsider their ways.
    Oh, but LOOK! The laws are not made like this.
    Then eBay and PayPal are pretending this and other passive abuses are an accidental oversight and technical mistake. Liars. When it’s THAT obvious a flaw in the system, you don’t just not notice it! Unless your total development and QA budget for eBay and PayPal is, say, $20k – and it ain’t, right?
    Oh and THEN they have the gall to be criticising others correct and fine use of encryption? Implementing some random unwritten rule (I assume unwritten or overly-vague clause as the devil is always in the detail with such entities).
    WHO do eBay and PayPal actually serve? The same masters that the war on terror now has economic national security (corporate interests, private profit, public funding for the NSA spying) and ‘extremism’ (freedom of thought, let alone speech being banned, for the express purpose of removing critical consensus-building by the public). The last right to remove is freedom of movement, before freedom of self-defence to stay alive (the right to bear arms) is removed. There’s a reason those ‘gun nuts’ (I am not one of them) have such passion about their rights.
    Now if Facebook was starter-funded by the CIA (or recently-ex-CIA individuals) then wouldn’t it be the same people, overall, who’d try to deny funding to their ‘enemy’ in the anti-spying (anti- Total Information Awareness program – hushed-up since 2002, limited hang-out revelations since 2013 via Snowden and by then TOO LATE as they had everyone by the balls, privacy-wise).
    THIS is the reality today, THIS is the (IMHO) most clear narrative to explain what has gone on, when decisions and moves have been made, contrary to the stated logic of rule of law and constitutional freedom and democracy.
    Democracy, that Switzerland, having had the rough same system of government for, what, 800 years? Ought to be the role-model for. I just hope they can make it last, and refuse to be corrupted. And keep their military service and gun-responsibility self-defence/country-defence ethic. That’s an intelligent, distributed system, if you think about it…