ProtonMail Denies 'Partnership' With Huawei

ProtonMail has denied a Bloomberg story posted on Friday that allegedly says the firm is in potential partnership talks with Huawei. The company clarifies that it may offer its ProtonMail App through the Huawei AppGallery, but that there is no partnership.

This is a misunderstanding of the situation," CEO and founder Andy Yen argues in a Sunday blog post, "just as being in the Apple App Store or the Google PlayStore does not imply that we are 'partnering' 'with Apple or Google."

However, a review of the Bloomberg article on Monday shows that it uses the word "partnership" only once, far down in the article. The headline states: "Huawei Eyes ProtonMail as It Searches for Gmail alternative."

Whatever the language, the article has led some to speculate that ProtonMail could replace Gmail as a venue for Huawei’s Mate 30 series, thanks to the U.S. ban against Huawei.

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Yen explains in his post that hundreds of thousands of people are already using Proton services on Huawei devices. However, because of the U.S.-trade dispute, all Huawei devices worldwide may no longer have access to the Google PlayStore, he adds.

This would make it impossible “for Huawei device users to download or update the ProtonMail app,” Yen contends.

Yen adds that ProtonMail would not fall under the China Internet Security Law, which requires that foreign companies that process data on Chinese citizens “store such data in China and make it available to Chinese authorities on request.”

Rather, ProtonMail observes only Swiss law, and Yen states that any requests "that fall outside that law will be politely refused.”

'The Bloomberg story begins as follows: “ProtonMail is in talks with Huawei Technologies Co. about including its encrypted email service in future mobile devices, part of the Chinese phone maker's plan to develop an alternative to Alphabet Inc.’s Google ecosystem."

It continues: "The Swiss company’s service could come preloaded on future Huawei mobile devices or be offered inside its app store, AppGallery," said Yen. The company has not made a final decision about offering its service on Huawei’s channel, he said.

The story later adds: "The Huawei partnership would open ProtonMail's services up to a bigger audience, but “we need to weigh this against some of the other risks of doing business, especially in China, because you never really know who you're working for," (Yen) said.

Some companies use the word "partnership" in their announcements to denote loose arrangements of almost any kind.

In a blog post last Thursday, ProtonMail said it plans to release its apps on F-droid, an “open-source Android app repository,” and is considering other distribution channels, "including the Samsung Galaxy Store, the Amazon App store and the Huawei AppGallery.”

It noted that Samsung and Huawei are the world's first- and second-largest smartphone manufacturers.

Whether or not it seeks to replace Gmail, ProtonMail -- which reportedly has 17 million users -- has taken some swipes against Google.

“From their not-quite-confidential mode to their privacy smokescreen campaignGoogle has tried to offer the illusion of choice and privacy without actually delivering these things to their users — all to preserve enormous profits selling user data to advertisers,” it charged last Thursday.
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