Earlier this month, ProtonMail announced a new email domain for its services. The announcement mentioned something important, it said that free user accounts that were inactive for 12 months would be deactivated.
This news caused a bit of commotion amongst users, and even a couple of comments on my previous article raised concerns about the rule.
Note: ProtonMail’s original article has been edited, and the warning about the inactive accounts has been silently removed.
Why is Proton AG doing this?
To users, it may seem like a pointless move. Maybe ProtonMail is picking up more free users than they expected, which in turn costs server storage. I think it is also possible that more people could be signing up for using the free VPN service that the company provides. We mustn’t forget Proton AG makes money from its premium services, so this move could theoretically be purely be executed from a business’ perspective.
Proton AG originally planned to deactivate accounts that were inactive for three months, but says it extended the grace period to 1 year, after listening to feedback from users. A three-month limit would have drawn a lot of complaints from users, I think they made the right call by sidestepping that land mine.
Does it matter if a dormant account gets deleted?
If a user hasn’t accessed their account for over a year, isn’t that an irrelevant account? Does it matter if it gets deleted? Yes, it does. Users may not remember it, but it is possible they may have some receipts, tax invoices, photos, or important documents stored in their email account. These can be crucial data that may not be recovered once the account is deactivated.
ProtonMail announces a way to prevent inactive accounts from being deactivated
ProtonMail has published a support page on its website that explains more about the inactive account policy. All you need to do to protect your account, is to log into it from your web browser or the mobile app, once a year. Or, you could use the VPN app too, since activity across services is also counted.
This is the most important information on the support page,
“If you are or have been a paid Proton subscriber at any point in time, your account will permanently be considered active. Anyone that has ever paid for a Proton plan is exempt from this policy.”
So, you don’t need to have an active Premium subscription, you just need to have paid for a plan at least once. That is intriguing, you could pay for a month’s subscription of ProtonMail Plus, which currently costs $5 or 5€, to preserve the account forever. That’s a small price to pay to protect your data. I think that is better than not having a way to secure the account.
If you decide to buy a subscription, login to your account and click the Upgrade button in the top right corner. Select the plan that you want, if you’re only interested in a month’s subscription of Premium Plus, click on it.
A pop-up window will open, it has a couple of drop-down menus in the top right. Click on the first menu to change the subscription from Annual to a month. The next menu allows you to pick the currency that you’d like to pay in. Proton AG supports three currencies: Euros €, US Dollars $, and Swiss Francs (CHF). Choose the one that you find convenient, confirm the total amount that you need to pay, before proceeding to checkout. Just to be safe, you may want to set a reminder in your calendar to prevent the service from being renewed automatically.
Can someone else claim my email address after it was deactivated?
No, Proton has confirmed that a deactivated email address is lost permanently. No one, including you, will be able to use the ID if it has been deleted. This is to ensure that no 2 people have the same email address @protonmail.com and @proton.me alias. This means identity theft won’t be an issue.
When does the new account inactivity rule come into effect?
ProtonMail will start enforcing the rule from April 30, 2022.
Tip: If you haven’t already done it, you can claim a free @Proton.me email address until April 30th.
Do you use ProtonMail regularly? If not, are you going to buy a one-time subscription to prevent the account from being deleted?