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New encrypted email even the government can't read

A new start-up email service is promising to keep all of your messages private
New snoop-proof email service 01:40

Email privacy used to be a big concern for Cal Tech professor Maria Spiropulu.

"Whenever I was writing email, I was thinking that I was basically putting it as a headline in a newspaper," she told CBS News' Danielle Nottingham.

But for two years, she's been testing an encrypted email service one of her students designed called ProtonMail, which promises to keep third parties and the government from snooping through your inbox. The recipient must enter a password to decode and read the message.

ProtonMail co-founder Jason Stockman says the Edward Snowden NSA leaks inspired the idea.

"Existing services you kind of trust them to keep your data secure and private but they keep the lock and key, but with ProtonMail you hold the lock and key," he said.

The company is based in Switzerland, where strict privacy laws protect user data. Because the emails are encrypted from sender to recipient, not even ProtonMail can read what's stored on its server.

"Even if we are compelled to hand over your user data, all we can give people is completely encrypted information that only the original recipient can read," Stockman explained.

There are other secure features like self-destructing email. Similar to the way Snapchat photos disappear in seconds, self-destructing mail lets users like Spiropulu set a time for the message expire.

She said she feels that with ProtonMail, her email is "truly secure as can be with the technology we have today."

Spiropulu is one of about 400,000 users around the world testing ProtonMail, which is currently in Beta. It could be available to everyone this fall.

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