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Summary:

With email insecurity fears becoming more prevalent in the wake of programs such as PRISM, Switzerland’s MyKolab is making itself a more attractive alternative to the likes of Gmail.

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photo: Thinkstock

When your privacy-centric email and calendaring startup is getting multiple namechecks as a safe haven in these dark days of online surveillance, what do you do? You make it easier for people to jump over to your platform, as MyKolab has just done.

MyKolab, the hosted version of the Kolab groupware product, had already come up as an alternative when U.S. surveillance laws took out LavaBit and Silent Mail, but the Swiss outfit’s services got another burst of publicity when Pamela Jones, the patent law expert who just shut down her Groklaw website over email insecurity worries, said she was opening an account.

However, MyKolab is a pretty full-featured product that provides not only webmail, but also calendars, tasks and mobile synchronization features. So on Monday the company said it was launching a “lite” version that features only webmail. Which, after all, is the main reason most users would be looking to join MyKolab – they want a simple, safe alternative to Gmail or Outlook.com.

According to Kolab Systems CEO Georg Greve:

“After Groklaw’s shutdown, the attention for MyKolab was overwhelming. We reacted as fast as we could to meet the demand and to make real email privacy affordable for almost everyone.

“While we are happy to be in a position to help, it is deeply troublesome that our world now seems to require privacy refugee camps for ordinary and distinguished citizens such as Pamela Jones. We believe privacy should be the default, not the exception.”

Of course, security does come at a cost – no Gmail-style scanning of emails for ad-friendly keywords here. So the monthly cost for the mail-only version of MyKolab comes in at $5.41. The full version costs $11.15 a month.

MyKolab has also thrown in an extra benefit for those opting for the full version, though: the premium edition now comes with file storage, with access enabled through the open WebDAV protocol. Greve said the ultimate goal is to turn MyKolab into a “unified solution for your personal communication and collaboration.”

I think we’ll be seeing a lot more European cloud operations stepping up their international customer acquisition efforts, with not being sited in the U.S. as a major selling point. This is a topic we’ll be discussing at our Structure:Europe conference in London from 18-19 September, so see you there.

  1. It is actually not only webmail, but also IMAP and contacts, but not advanced groupware features that their lite account offers.

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  2. This might get you out of the corporate email scanning that Google or Microsoft engage in, but isn’t it a bit disingenuous to suggest that it protects you from the NSA? Afterall, it seems quite established at this point that the NSA focuses on out of country data specifically (bringing you under further scrutiny) and much of world’s internet traffic flows through the US anyway as a result of archaic tariffs/laws (https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security-technology-and-liberty/how-nsa-overreach-may-backfire-even-agencys-own-terms)

     

    And several years ago, the NSA was revealed to be able to crack at least some forms of VPN. And they’ve stated in Congress that they keep encrypted communications for 5yrs regardless (in case you’re encrypting your otherwise plaintext email). So unless you’re located outside of the US, encrypting your email, or perhaps just emailing another mykolab user, I think you’re out of luck as the NSA is concerned.

     

    Unfortunately, any protection probably has to come through reining in the military industrial complex, which doesn’t look likely. Afterall, James Clapper was Obama’s appointed “outsider” to monitor/evaluate the NSA  (after admitting to lying to congress, or at least having a VERY different definition of what ‘collect’ means) and then Jay Carney said the Obama thinks that James Clapper has been “direct and straightforward”. You can’t make this stuff up! And the sad part is that most of America doesn’t care.

     

    What if the govt told you that there would be a govt rep at the post office scanning your emails, saving them, and then delivering your already opened snail mail to you? Would you be angry? Get angry at the government doing the same thing to your emails/texts/phone calls. Just because you can’t see the evidence of it happening, doesn’t make it any less of an invasion of privacy!

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  3. Govt rep scanning your *snail mail* is what I meant in the last paragraph

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  4. John Reynolds Monday, August 26, 2013

    I don’t know if MyKoLab will fly, but it illustrates the power of invention and entrepreneurship. When there’s a problem, more people will work toward finding a solution. We’re seeing it in other areas too, with encryption products for texting and cell phones and anonymous search & browsing. There’s also a real threat to public cloud providers like Dropbox, iCloud, Instagram, etc.,but not just because they’re in the US. It’s naive to think other governments aren’t doing the same thing as NSA, only with even less protection of citizen privacy than we have in the US.
    There’s now a growing number of private cloud providers emerging, like Cloudlocker (www.cloudlocker.it), that eliminate the fatal flaws of Dropbox,etc. I think the personal cloud providers are eventually going to take over this space.

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