Tutanota, a German open-source, end-to-end encrypted email service, is experiencing difficulties in Egypt, the company has announced.
The heavily privacy-focused service that bills itself as the antidote to online censorship and is often used by activists and journalists to bypass surveillance and restrictions, is now being blocked in some areas of Egypt. That’s according to reports of Tutanota’s users in this North African country.
Regardless of Egypt’s history of restricting or blocking access to internet services, as well as introducing blackouts as a method of controlling the spread of information, Tutanota said it was unable to say at this time if the service disruption was the work of “a state actor.”
But the blog post then goes on to note that in many democracies, like the United States and Germany, free speech is legally protected, whereas, according to Tutanota, this is effectively not the case in others, like China, Russia, and Egypt.
There, the blog post continues, the state can take measures to restrict access to the internet and curb free online speech. As for what action users who have been blocked from using Tutanota can take – whether the restriction is imposed by the state or by their ISP – the company recommends using the anonymity network Tor, or a VPN (virtual private network) service. These tools allow users to circumvent blocks imposed on websites.
But Tutanota said they are also planning to publish a Tor onion service – these are anonymous network services over the Tor network that are usually not indexed by search engines and provide users with privacy.
Providing privacy and safe and anonymous communication online is Tutanota’s business, and on its website, the project reveals ambitious plans to become a privacy-respecting Google alternative that will offer users an encrypted calendar, notes, and cloud storage.
Meanwhile, Egypt has for many years periodically resorted to blocking access, sometimes to hundreds of websites at a time, in a bid to control the flow of information in this geopolitically important but politically highly volatile country.
There have also recently been reports of Egypt’s security forces stopping people in the street and carrying out random searches of their phones and computers.