GPG guide/Public Review

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Welcome, and thanks for giving feedback on Email Self-Defense.

This page is for recording and seconding suggested improvements. If you have found an error, broken link or typo, or if one of the guide's links to external documentation is no longer linking to what it seems like it should be linking to, please contact the FSF at so we can fix it as soon as possible.

When leaving feedback on this page, make sure to include: what step your feedback refers to (unless it's more general), how experienced you are with GPG, what version of the guide you are using (see the footer), and what operating system you are using.

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  • encrypted mail to could not be sent : KEY_CONSIDERED F357AA1A5B1FA42CFD9FE52A9FF2194CC09A61E8 0 INV_RECP 10 FAILURE sign-encrypt 53 (only one key found on 3 key servers, starting with F and not C as announced).
    • Step 3.B: When I click "Download missing keys", Enigmail can't find the key at all. It's as if never uploaded his keys. Thunderbird does not give me a choice of keyserver.
    • ANSWER: first, make sure you do step 3A correctly. And then, if thunderbird cannot find the public key right away, go to "key management" then "Keyserver" "Search for keys", and from there you can choose the different servers, use this one: hkps:// Zoe (talk)
  • I have dual boot desktop computer with Windows and Linux. Mozilla Thunderbird in Windows uses POP settings while the Thunderbird in Linux has IMAP settings. The email address is the same for both and Enigmail is set up in both with the same encryption keys. I send and receive message in both. IMAP is also used in my mobile phone for the same email account. Could this set up lead to any problems? if, so could this be dealt with somewhere in the instructions?
    • Both POP and IMAP will work with GPG. Mmcmahon (talk) 14:36, 5 May 2022 (EDT)
  • The Windows page needs specific instructions for specific email providers and email clients. Here's an example.. See, first they tell the user how to enable IMAP or POP, then they offer specific setup instructions for specific mail clients. We need to do that or link to it. Can we find similar guides for Yahoo, Apple's mail thing, and Hotmail? Does anybody have an up-to-date list of the most common email providers? Sebboh 12:22, 5 June 2014 (EDT)
    • Guide is limited in that it mentions only a few environments, clients, and encryption methods. For example: no mention there exists other clients for Windows, no mention of clients for Android, and no mention there exists other forms of encryption such as SMIME.
  • Step 6 Next Steps/Keysigning - What happens next after signing another person's public key? Do I have to upload the signed key to a key server? Will I send back the signed key to his/her owner? I understand that the concept of "Web of Trust" is elementary but following the manual I don't understand how to manage by personal web of trust. I really hope that I won't be the only one who doesn't understand this part. treje 11:21, 16 June 2014
    • The best idea is to send the key back to the owner in an encrypted email. That way, if the owner does not have access to the email address they won't be able to get the signed key. You manage the web of trust by setting ownertrust in a key. There are 3 levels: no trust, marginal trust, full trust and ultimate trust (This level should only be used on your own keys). A key needs to be signed by 3 marginally trusted keys or one fully or ultimately trusted key to be valid. Valid means that you can be sure that the key really belongs to its owner. You can set the level of trust by right-clicking on a key and selecting "Owner Trust" or something similar. --Gpcf 12:12, 16 June 2014 (EDT)
    • Thank you for the reply, Gpcf. As far as I understand it your way of processing signed keys adds a further tier of security to the process. Additionally I found a paragraph in the gpg manual which is also an answer to my issue ("Distributing Keys"). And I also realized that step 4.A on emailselfdefense answers my question, too. I obviously overlooked that step on my first attempt. Both sources suggest to upload the signed key to a public key server. The process of uploading signed keys raises other questions in my opinion. Newbie questions perhaps. Do the public key server sync their stored keys? Could be good to know to retrieve keys of new recipients. --treje 17:55, 17 June 2014 (CEST)
    • Yes, all SKS pool keyservers syncronize. It may take a few minutes until the changes have spread over all keyservers. --Gpcf 13:00, 17 June 2014 (EDT) Modified by Mmcmahon (talk) 14:36, 5 May 2022 (EDT)
  • The styles of the "join" and "donate" buttons are not quite the same. This departs from the elegant style of the page. Besides, the buttons are difficult to localize because the background of the svg is a bitmap (i.e. the circle with the FSF logo can't move). FWIW, I redrew the background in Inkscape; the only bitmap element is "FSF" (from the FSF logo). The result is here:
  • As for the guide itself, I think it is a pity that you don't give us detailed information on how to use GNUPG and Claws-Mail (not simply GNUPG in Claws Mail). Apparently, Enigmail (Thunderbird Add-on) is far from perfect, and doesn't follow the PGP standard, and may be misleading as it offers too many and useless options.
  • Would be good to include a configuration for also encrypting the email for yourself, so that you can read it.
  • Section 1.a) How about a link to or a text like "Open whatever program you usually use for installing software, and search for Thunderbird, then install it." for people who haven't installed Thunderbird/Icedove. --raff 08:56, 13 July 2014 (EDT) (feedback via mail)
  • Enigmail-Plugin for Windows (v1.6) has a bug concerning the OpenPGP-Assistant: at one step, the Assistant wants to change the defaults - but apparently nothing happens. This happens when Enigmail has not found the correct Binary for gpg - in my case, it tried "gpgv2.exe" instead of "gpg2.exe". Please mention this in the explanations. I'll also append my explanation to the bug report on sourceforge regarding Enigmail. --Rince 15:33, 13 July 2014 (MEST)
  • Someone contacted the FSF and said it would be good to put in a recommendation of how often to remake one's keys Zakkai 16:32, 7 August 2014 (EDT)
  • In the 'when should I encrypt' I was worried how it will go for people that don't use PGP (I've first thought that because encrypting is default I'll have to know myself about who of my friends use it + enable disable manually OR that they will receive encrypted messages with no clues and could just delete them). It should be good to add a sentence saying that Enigmail will check if the person have a key and then will let you decide. Maybe adding a good practice sentence too about sending your public key + signing in that case. --NicolasWeb 17:04, 8 October 2015 (EDT)
  • Step 1b for Windows links to an outdated version of GPG4Win. --Ignoble (talk) 03:44, 29 December 2015 (EST)
    • It still links to an - now even more - outdated version. --Ignoble (talk) 16:08, 19 October 2016 (EDT)
  • Step 1b, says in an outdated message: "Note: As of June 18, 2018, GnuPG 2.2.8 is unavailable for Debian stable and testing. It should say, "There is a GnuPG 2.2.12 backport available for Debian Stretch. Run apt-get -t stretch-backports install gnupg." (I'll admit that I have no confidence that my addition to this wiki will be taken seriously by anyone, so please prove me wrong. Thanks. ... Isn't this sort of a disorganized way to get anything done. Just say'n.)
  • Step 3a for all OSs says the encryption symbol is in the bottom right of the composition window. For the current version of Enigmail this is in the top toolbar. --Ignoble (talk) 04:01, 29 December 2015 (EST)
    • Same problem in Step 3b. --Ignoble (talk) 04:07, 29 December 2015 (EST)
  • Surveillance of metadata raises a concern to dissociate keys and their fingerprints from any identity, online or offline, other than the singular e-mail address or other intention for which the key is created. The guide skips over pros and cons of generating a key with your name, with your e-mail address, only one of the two, or false information. Users of e-mail would maintain their pseudonymity by entering only their e-mail address and not their name when creating a key. Users intending to sign software may benefit from entering different information that associates or does not associate the key to their identity, other accounts, other pseudonyms, the name of a project, etc. Key signing threatens anonymity as well by voluntarily publishing users' associations to the web of trust.

Step #4, "What to consider when signing keys," recklessly recommends to "ask them to show you their government identification, and make sure the name on the ID matches the name on the public key." Where e-mail is concerned, pseudonymity can be maintained by only verifying that the keyholder has access to the e-mail account. It would require no other information but for them to read the contents of a message you encrypt and e-mail to them in person verbally back to you in person at the same meeting. Encouraging government IDs renounces anonymity across all pseudonyms associated with a key as well as misleads users into believing that the person presenting the ID has access to the account.

Step #5 says, "Unless you don't want to reveal your own identity (which requires other protective measures)..." What other protective measures? PGP is for privacy, and privacy usually implies or necessitates anonymity. Bulk metadata collection pressures this guide to be amended. --KE8Au7s (talk) 18:07, 24 June 2016 (EDT)

Thanks I enjoyed your guide! For Step 3E, though when signing I didn't get Edward to verify with his signature,"Your signature was verified." I also found that his public key began with F, as a heads up to anyone! Fruitbat (talk) 16:27, 12 October 2020 (EDT)

  • Section 2: Why make it so complicated and not use the built in feature of thunderbird to generate a new key? Was this a conscious decision (if so, do you have nice resources about why it's not good to use it) or is the guide just too old and this functionality did not exist when it was last updated? Fanti (talk) 4 May 2023
    • You can use Thunderbird to generate PGP keys. This guide is to use GPG keys, which have many uses outside of Thunderbird, with Thunderbird. Mmcmahon (talk) 13:25, 5 May 2023 (EDT)


  • full-infographic.png (gnupg-infographic.svg) provides a lot of information that is inaccessible to screen readers, unless you extract the svg from the source package and weed through it. We could write a text description of the images, and intercalate the explanations. The description could be linked from the main page. -- Tgodef 09:44, 25 July 2014 (EDT)
  • Likewise, smaller images could use more descriptive alt attributes. -- Tgodef 09:51, 25 July 2014 (EDT)
  • I find the less important text extremely difficult to read (for example "The program will take a little while to finish the next step...") Indeed, the luminosity-contrast ratio is only 2.45 (, text #999, background #f4eed7). In the French version, the text color is #707070 instead of #999. The contrast is better, but still not sufficient to satisfy W3C criteria. -- Tgodef 09:44, 25 July 2014 (EDT)

German and French versions

  • Encoding in Edwards reply is wrong. The source is UTF8 (Linux CR/LF).
  • There are problems with accents in the French version too.

This page was a featured resource in June 2014.