In the summer of 2014, the German email provider Posteo faced a critical situation: it had to let the police seize its servers or fight them in court.
The Bavarian authorities had contacted the Berlin-based startup because they wanted the identity of a Posteo account holder. But the couple, Patrik and Sabrina Löhr, a couple who run the company, told police they simply could not comply: Posteo is an anonymous email provider that does not store customer data and identities.
They were only allowed to give a list of the company's banking transactions - which they had already received from the bank.
Löhr filed a lawsuit against police officers, accusing them of intimidation. This move caught the attention of the media and created the company's stated commitment to transparency. Of course, Edward Snowden's leaks also helped Posteo become one of Germany's fastest growing email providers.
The Germans then began to leave American email providers for Posteo. "From 10.000 subscribers before the Snowden leak immediately after the events, it became 70.000," Löhr told the Guardian at the time.
The site is offered in German and English and is not free: a 2 GB account starts at € 12 per year.
However, Posteo promises users a private email experience. In fact, privacy is the company's only point of sale. The company does not "read" metadata in emails and does not collect user contacts to display ads.
It does not store users' IP addresses or monitor them when they click on the web. The company also deletes the bank and card details immediately after processing the payments.
"We do not want the data of our clients, we do not want their names, their addresses, their dates of birth. And because we do not have this data, we can not lose it or be forced to give it, "say the company's managers.
In May 2014, the company became the first email provider in the world to adopt DNS-based Authentication of Named Entities (DNS) based on its servers. Dane technology makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for hackers or governments to launch man-in-the-middle "phishing" attacks on web browsers.
"We protect your metadata with encryption and Dane," says Löhr. "However, we encourage our users to encrypt their email with PGP."