Back when he was still a National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden chose the privacy-minded e-mail provider Lavabit for his correspondence. It was from that account that he ultimately divulged his secrets to American journalists. Since Snowden became a household name, Lavabit shut down under legal pressure from a US court to hand over the keys to its kingdom as a way to get at Snowden’s data.
Inspired by that episode over two months ago, I kicked the tires on a couple of privacy-minded e-mail providers, one based in the United States and another based in Germany. My conclusion? Europe won’t save you. In particular, German law wouldn’t offer more legal protection—and it could possibly offer less than an American provider.
Of course, not all of Europe is created equal—28 countries are part of the European Union. But there are many strong, privacy-minded countries that sit apart, like Switzerland. The Swiss Confederation is well-known for its Alpine air, chocolates, clocks, neutrality, secrecy, and privacy—particularly in banking. (Plus, it has a special place in my heart as I spent a year in high school living there from 1997 to 1998.)