De-Mail is the name of a communication system based on email but technically separate from it, designed for “secure, confidential and trackable” communication online. De-Mail is generally realised and operated by private companies known as De-Mail providers.
The main goal of De Mail is to send and receive messages and documents over the internet in a confidential, secure and trackable fashion, and therefore to establish a digital equivalent of today’s physical mail service. The “Bürgerportale” project, which was later renamed De Mail, responded to a lack of support for the electronic court and administration mail system known as EGVP. As early as 2006, EGVP received criticism, since its supposed security advantages based on the XML-based OSCI protocol were equally achievable using email specifications (SMTP/S/MIME), and there was no need for state-sponsored compulsory communication using an EGVP system.
De-Mail partially acknowledged these criticisms and aims to make it possible for private providers to offer secure, legally-binding email communication based on international standards. The state itself does not provide the De-Mail service; rather, certified providers are tasked with this role. These providers are loaned against security; in other words, they remain sovereign in terms of the public services they provide. In implementing De-Mail, the German federal government is implementing EU service guidelines within national law. The guidelines require public agencies to accept digital communications as a binding medium by the end of 2009.