Berlin-based email provider Posteo claims to have seen a 150 percent surge in paid subscribers due to the "Snowden effect."
Posteo demands no personal information, doesn't store metadata, ensures server-to-server encryption of messages and even allows customers to pay anonymously — cash in brown envelopes-style.
CEO Patrick Loehr, who responded to The Associated Press by encrypted email, said that subscriptions to the 1 euro ($1.36) per month program rose to 25,000 in the past four months. The company is hoping to offer an English-language service next year.
Federation of American Scientists secrecy expert Steven Aftergood said it is crucial now for policymakers to clearly define limits.
"Are we setting ourselves up for a total surveillance system that may be beyond the possibility of reversal once it is in place?" he asked. "We may be on a road where we don't want to go. I think people are correct to raise an alarm now and not when we're facing a fait accompli."
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, who introduced a bipartisan package of proposals to reform the surveillance programs last month, told a Cato Institute gathering Thursday that key parts of the debate are unfolding now.
"It's going to take a groundswell of support from lots of Americans across the political spectrum," he said, "communicating that business as usual is no longer OK, and they won't buy the argument that liberty and security are mutually exclusive."
Associated Press writers Frank Jordans in Berlin and Raphael Satter in London contributed to this story. Follow Martha Mendoza at https://twitter.com/mendozamartha .
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