Leading privacy firm launches foundation and goes non-profit

The Proton Foundation
(Image credit: Proton)

Proton, an industry leader in digital privacy, and creator of one the best VPNs, has announced a big change in the way that it operates. It's going the non-profit route. 

The newly created Proton Foundation is now the main shareholder for the Proton group, with its "legally binding purpose" aiming to further the "advancement of privacy, freedom, and democracy around the world."

Now in its tenth year, the company has advocated for digital freedom since its inception. Further enhancing its credentials, the foundation can even count the man who invented the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, amongst its board members.

Why go non-profit? 

This is a move to secure Proton's commitment to its mission. Founders Andy Yen and Jason Stockman as well as Proton's first employee, Dingchao Lu, have donated shares to give the foundation the primary stake in the company. 

In Switzerland (where Proton is based) non-profits have no shareholders, and board members are legally obligated to pursue the foundation's aims. By bestowing the controlling stake in Proton to the foundation, the company is practically immune to the threat of a hostile takeover. It can't be bought and turnover and profit will no longer be the measures of achievement – in an open letter Andy Yen declared: "Our success will be measured instead by impact."

In essence, this move secures Proton's independence and longevity. 

So no more business dealings?

Proton VP)N logo under a magnifying glass

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

That is not quite the case. In order to sustain its mission, Proton will still be operating as a business, Proton AG, supervised by the foundation. That means that the likes of Proton VPN and the popular Proton Mail aren't going anywhere. 

Because Proton has no venture capital shareholders or subsidies from donations, governments, or big corporations, it needs to keep acting like a business to continue operating. Of course, Proton's performance as a business will affect its ambition as a non-profit. It has committed 1% of its net revenues (when conditions allow) to running the foundation. 

Is Proton VPN worth it?

Well, paid plans start at $3.69 per month, so it's not the priciest of options. However, you can try it out for the low low price of nothing. Although it's not currently our number-one best free VPN, it's a real contender. 

We appreciate that it has an unlimited data allowance (a rarity for a free service) and a fast connection, up to 520mbps. That's a lot to love, even if it's not great for streaming. 

Andy Sansom
Staff Writer – VPN

Andy is Tom's Guide Staff Writer for VPNs and privacy. Based in the UK, he originally cut his teeth at Tom's Guide as a Trainee Writer (go and click on his articles!) before moving to cover all things Tech and streaming at T3. He's now back at Tom's Guide to keep you safe online, and bring you the latest news in VPN and cybersecurity.