ProtonMail, an email service that boasts of offering great security to its users with end-to-end encryption, is currently facing serious criticism after passing the IP address of a French climate activist to Swiss authorities.
According to a TechCrunch report, the company responded to a request from the French police made via Europol. And since the said company is based in Switzerland, ProtonMail has had to comply with applicable laws. This includes archiving user IP addresses for “serious criminal matters,” according to its own transparency report.
ProtonMail in turmoil after providing French IP address to Swiss authorities
Proton CEO Andy Yen said in a blog post that the company has done everything possible to make it clear that it has no choice but to comply with the laws of the country. “In this case, Proton has received a legal order from the Swiss authorities which we are required to respond to. There was no possibility of appealing this particular request.”
The case in question involves activists who occupied buildings near Place Sainte-Marthe in Paris. According to TechCrunch, it was originally a question of protesting against the gentrification of the district but the movement quickly made the headlines in France.
On September 1, members of the movement published an article claiming that the French authorities had sent a message via Europol to obtain the identity of the creator of the ProtonMail account.
A reminder that no service is ever truly anonymous
Andy Yen specifies that the encryption implemented by the company prevents anyone from reading the content of a ProtonMail account or knowing the identity of its users. In other words, in this case, he did not know that the company was revealing information about these activists.
In addition, he explains that, from now on, the company will be more clear about its management of criminal prosecution cases. Finally, for users who want to protect their privacy at all costs, he reminds to use ProtonMail via the platform’s Tor site as well as its VPN.
In 2020, Proton recalls having received no less than 3,572 requests for user information. 750 of these were contested, and 3,017 ultimately received a favorable response.
Rachel Maga is a technology journalist currently working at Globe Live Media agency. She has been in the Technology Journalism field for over 5 years now. Her life’s biggest milestone is the inside tour of Tesla Industries, which was gifted to her by the legend Elon Musk himself.