This weekend on November 11th, 2023 an email arrived in our press mailbox from the chief political correspondent David Akin from the Global News, Canada, informing us of recent released testimony from accused ex-Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) intelligence officer Cameron Ortis. In the testimony transcripts Ortis claims the following:
“So, I was briefed on a storefront that was being created or had been created in order to attract targets – criminal targets to this online encrypted service that was being created, in order for them to – the criminals or the targets to use this service in order for intelligence to be collected by the agency that created the storefront. … It’s an online end-to-end encryption service called Tutanota.”
Screenshot of the transcript of the court hearing in Canada.
In another article more excerpts of the hearing are explained in which it reads like Mr Ortis was using Tutanota to communciate with the criminal, rather than "lure him into using it":
This statement by Cameron Ortis is completely false.
The Tutao GbmH is not owned by any secret service, nor is it a "storefront" as claimed by Cameron Ortis.
These allegations against Tuta, (formerly Tutanota), are false. Tutanota has never and Tuta will never operate a “storefront” for any intelligence or law enforcement agency. This would completely contradict our mission as a privacy protection organization.
Tutao GmbH, the company behind Tuta, was founded in 2011 by Arne Möhle and Matthias Pfau who knew each other from studying together at FHWD university in Hanover, Germany. To this day, the company is wholly owned by Matthias and Arne, and is not liable to anyone else.
With offices located within Germany, and no other countries, Tutao GmbH only responds to valid warrants issued by German courts. You can read more on this in our Transparency Report. We regularly update this transparency report in order to keep our users up-to-speed and informed regarding any legal inquiries which we receive.
In addition, Tuta is open source and the entire client code is published on GitHub. Thus, everyone can inspect the code and verify how the end-to-end encryption in Tuta works and that there are no backdoors hidden in the code.
At Tuta, our founders and team are wholly committed to protecting all of our users, and those whom they communicate with, from illegal surveillance. The allegation that we have created any backdoor access for intelligence agencies made by Mr. Ortis is a complete and utter lie.
We are watching this case with great interest and will provide updates to all of our users when we have any new information regarding these outright falsehoods as the hearing will continue on Tuesday, November 14th, 2023. We are actively working with our legal team to fight these slanderous claims.
Cameron Ortis, a former RCMP intelligence official is on trial in Canada, for selling sensitive secrets from Canada and the Five Eyes intelligence alliance – which also includes Australia, the United States (US), Britain and New Zealand – to criminals.
During the first court hearing last week, Ortis claimed that Tutanota was a “storefront”, but had no evidence to back up this claim. Upon cross-examination he said statements like “that’s something I can’t talk about” and “I don’t recall”.
The story was first published by CBC News, who updated their story after we contacted them.
Someone also published the story on Reddit calling Tutanota a honeypot, which was removed by the moderators as fake news.
These kinds of allegations are especially dangerous because they bring companies and organizations credibility into question, regardless of any inappropriate actions on their part. It is not acceptable that this alleged criminal can throw Tutanota under the bus, without disclosing any evidence that we participated in the behavior from his testimony, and also without disclosing which “foreign intelligence” agency may have been providing this access or information.
Today we are refusing to take the blame for actions we never took. We want to disclose this to the world to make sure that other privacy protecting organizations do not fall victim to the same malicious actions of any future twisted truths. The privacy community needs to stand together in the face of such attacks. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. It doesn’t matter what privacy-first service you prefer, whether it’s Tuta, Proton, Signal or others. What matters is that you value your privacy!
Please stand up for what is right and continue to fight for your right to privacy.
We stand firmly in our commitment to transparency with our customers who trust that we are providing them with the greatest degree of privacy and security possible. This promise is the cornerstone of who we are as a company and as individual team members.
Such slanderous statements by Mr. Ortis are a slap in the face to everything that we as an individual company and as a community believe and fight for.
The Tuta Team