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Two email providers forced to close their services in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations on mass surveillance have proposed a new open standard for secure email that would be harder for security services and others to eavesdrop upon.

The encrypted email service Lavabit, and Silent Circle, a firm also encrypting phone calls and texts, are the founding members of the Darkmail Alliance, a service that aims to prevent government agencies from listening in on the metadata of emails.

The metadata is the information bundled up with the content of an email such as that showing the sender, the recipient and date the message was sent.

Conventional email can never be made fully secure because the standard requires some metadata to be sent unencrypted.

Mike Janke, Silent Circle's chief executive and co-founder, said that this factor meant the medium was "fundamentally broken".

The new service was revealed at the Inbox Love conference in California on Wednesday. The alliance hopes to bring on board potential partners.

"We want to get another dozen to two dozen email providers up and running on Darkmail architecture so that at any one time citizens of the world can choose two dozen email providers to get their email service from," said Janke.

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