Tuta Mail co-founder reveals concerns about Google search results

German email service Tuta Mail has complained to European Union tech regulators following a sudden drop in Google search results on the day the bloc’s new tech rules kicked in, Reuters news report said.
Tuta MailMatthias Pfau, a co-founder of Tuta and an expert in cryptography, cybersecurity, and digital privacy rights, has explained its concerns with TelecomLead.com. 

Google has been harming our business Tuta Mail, an encrypted email provider and competitor with Google’s Gmail, by deranking our website and reducing visibility to potential customers. Beginning of March, our website “tuta.com” has seen a nearly 90 percent drop in visibility against terms which directly relate to the Tuta service, “encrypted email” and “secure email”. We rebranded in September of 2023, from Tutanota to Tuta Mail, including a website change, but this transition was managed and monitored by SEO experts and there was only a slight dip in traffic at this time. This means that rebranding from Tutanota to Tuta is not the cause of this deranking, and Google is unwilling or unable to fix the issue.

The drop in ranking is only apparent when using Google’s Search, and other search providers like Bing, or even Yandex list us near the top of their results. We have attempted to contact Google’s offices through their official support channels, privately and publicly on social media, and they have failed to respond on all fronts. This kind of negligence by a corporate gatekeeper is a prime example of what is wrong with Big Tech dominance. By refusing to engage with us to resolve this issue Google is directly hurting the business of one of their competitors and is abusing their status as the world’s go-to destination for searching the web.

This kind of deranking has a measurable impact on the profit margins of small to mid-size businesses which operate in the shadows of tech giants. Ultimately this kind of anti-competitive business practice stifles innovation and pushes the tech industry even closer towards a shared monopoly by a few major tech companies like Meta, Apple, Google, and Amazon.

For their lack of response and the unfair position Google holds in the tech industry, having built themselves into an integral hub of internet traffic, we have decided to file an official compliant with the Enforcement Unit Digital Markets of the European Union to investigate whether Google is violating the EU Digital Markets Act.

This is not the first charge against Alphabet which has led to investigations related to Google’s business practices. EU anti-trust groups are already investigating Google to determine whether or not the company has been boosting its own products and services over its competitors via search result. This is an interesting point in relation to our own case because a search for “tutanota login” through Google has been presenting users with a link to the Google Play Store for our encrypted email app while not listing the actual login page for our service at all. Something seems off here.

When making an identical search query through Bing, Yahoo, or Yandex, there is no issue and the search will return a link to our email login page. This is especially interesting with Yandex search because Tuta Mail has been blocked by the Russian government. Despite a legal ban of our service, search rankings still display correctly.

The EU Digital Markets Act stands as our last ditch effort to try and resolve this issue with Google. We are not interested in a long drawn out fight with a malignant tech giant, but would rather focus our time and money on improving our products and services. Thankfully, Tuta is supported by a large open source software community, but this community is only a small portion of the total global marketplace. We are hopeful that the EU DMA will help protect local businesses and create a level playing field between competitors. Free and open markets should not be controlled by a few multinational corporations. Being located in Germany, we are lucky to have legislation like the DMA, as it stands as an emergency pull switch not only for digital services like Tuta, but also for smaller services, freelancers, and independent developers who might not have the capacity to draw public attention to the abusive action taken by a market gatekeeper.

We are still waiting for an official response from Google to help us resolve this issue, and not just a vague comment made to a journalist.

We hope that by going public with this problem we can not only resolve this issue, but also help other small development teams who are facing similar issues find their voice. Markets should be fair and open spaces for competition, innovation, and the exchange of ideas. Google’s current actions as a gatekeeper are far from meeting that goal.