ProtonMail pushes back against claims it is partnering with Huawei

Publishing in an app store is not a partnership, Swiss email company states.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Angela Lang/CNET

Swiss-based encrypted email provider ProtonMail has hit back at claims it is forming a partnership with Huawei.

On Friday, Bloomberg reported the company was in talks with Huawei, and framed it as a partnership.

ProtonMail published a blog post the day before, which said it was looking to publish its Android apps on F-droid, and was considering the Samsung Galaxy Store, the Amazon App store, and the Huawei AppGallery as alternate distribution channels.

"ProtonMail is not partnering with Huawei. We are simply considering allowing ProtonMail to be used by people with Huawei devices. That is very different," a notice above the blog post now states.

Further detail was provided in a Sunday post that said the situation was being misinterpreted by many people.

"Today, ProtonMail is already available on Huawei, as our Android app is distributed on Huawei devices through the Google Play store, so in terms of supporting Huawei devices, there is no change from the current situation," ProtonMail CEO Andy Yen wrote.

"What is changing is that in addition to making ProtonMail available to Huawei users through Google Play, we may also make ProtonMail available through the Huawei AppGallery. "

See also: Huawei believes banning it from 5G will make countries insecure

Yen said that much like how distributing its app via the Play Store does not mean the company agrees with Google's privacy stance, distributing via Huawei also would not mean the company agreed with China's human rights stance.

"Our goal has always been to make privacy accessible to as many people as possible, and we just don't think that goal is best served by cutting off support for the hundreds of millions of people who use Huawei devices," Yen said.

Over the weekend, Apple confirmed that a recent iOS exploit chain uncovered by Google's Project Zero had targeted China's Uyghur population. Apple has since attempted to downplay the impact of the exploit.

"First, the sophisticated attack was narrowly focused, not a broad-based exploit of iPhones 'en masse' as described," Apple said.

"The attack affected fewer than a dozen websites that focus on content related to the Uighur community.

"Second, all evidence indicates that these website attacks were only operational for a brief period, roughly two months"

Apple did not mention the word China once in its statement.

Australian think tank, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), recently warned the Uyghurs could be "consigned to the dustbin of history" if the international community does not act.

ASPI has collected a database containing the so-called "re-education" camps that Beijing has set up in Xinjiang province.

ProtonMail has also previously called out Australia's encryption laws.

"[The Assistance and Access Bill] is one of the most significant attacks on digital security and privacy since the NSA's PRISM program," the company wrote.

"We thoroughly condemn the new law, and as the world's largest encrypted email provider, we remain committed to protecting our users anywhere in the world, including in Australia."

The company said that even though the laws are restricted to Australia, it will have wider impacts.

"Australian Parliament has single-handedly undermined global confidence in any software maker with an Australian presence, including Facebook (by extension WhatsApp and Instagram), Google, and Apple," it said.

ProtonMail said since it is based in Switzerland, any request from Australia would need to comply with Swiss criminal and data protection laws.

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