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Marcel Bokhorst: “Closed source and privacy protection don’t go together very well”

Marcel-Bokhorst
Foto: istock

Marcel Bokhorst from the Netherlands is the developer of the open source Android app FairEmail. Besides transparency and privacy, he thinks that an easy usability is essential for an app’s success. This is why he takes users’ feedback seriously, he told mobilsicher.

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[Zur deutschen Version des Interviews geht es hier.]

Marcel, what drives you as a person and as a developer?

My primary motivation is to help people to better protect their online privacy – and I like doing something useful and challenging in the process.

Why did you decide to develop FairEmail?

I started the FairEmail project because there were no other open source email apps focused on online privacy protection at that time. There are more and increasingly sophisticated phishing emails, and lots of companies still routinely and unnecessarily use tracking codes despite the European General Data Protection Regulation.

So, in my opinion, there is a real need for an app like FairEmail. Given the feedback I receive, I don’t seem to be the only one with this opinion.

Why did you decide to base FairEmail on open source software?

Closed source and privacy protection don’t go together very well. Nobody can check what the app does. So, the choice expresses mostly an alternative philosophy.

Marcel Bokhorst develops the email app FairEmail.

Preinstalled email apps are usually closed source. Besides this, why do you think users are better off using FairEmail?

In the first place, FairEmail is for people who want to better protect their online privacy. But FairEmail also has quite a few features to make managing messages easier, while preinstalled apps mostly offer only basic features. My personal favourites are reply templates and filter rules. I am using reply templates to answer common questions quickly and filter rules to move messages into folders and to organise emails by subject automatically.

Can you describe the way you’re working?

I work on my apps when I am motivated. Since it is fun to create something new and to make people happy, I work a lot. I am always listening to feedback because this is what makes apps better. What FairEmail looks like, how it behaves, and which features are offered is quite often based on feedback.

Can you give an example?

There has been a lot of feedback on the design of FairEmail that helped to make FairEmail look like it does now. To make as many people as possible happy, I also added a significant number of options to customise FairEmail’s look and behaviour.

There is a fee-based version of FairEmail with pro features, while the basic functions are free. Why?

Since the goal is to help as many people as possible to better protect their online privacy, there should be as few potential obstacles to using FairEmail as possible. That is why everything needed to protect someone’s privacy is free to use.

Marcel Bokhorst also develops the firewall app NetGuard. More information here.

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