The non-public electronic mail service Protonmail is drawing harsh criticism from its customers after offering IP data linked to a French activist who used the service, as first reported by TechCrunch.
The info was requested as a part of a broader investigation into a bunch of local weather activists who’ve occupied a lot of residences and business areas in Paris. Whereas the members of the group are nameless, one had used the tackle “email@example.com” in on-line postings. Because of this, French police sought to determine any individuals linked to the account.
As a result of ProtonMail relies in Switzerland, it isn’t topic to French or EU requests. However the firm continues to be topic to requests from Swiss courts, the place French police the place in a position to lodge their request with the assistance of Europol. After Swiss courts permitted the order, ProtonMail started logging IP data on the account, which was subsequently handed over to French police, resulting in the activist’s identification and arrest.
In a put up titled “Essential clarifications concerning arrest of local weather activist,” Proton CEO Andy Yen mentioned he shared concern over the prosecution, and gave additional element on the authorized points that had compelled the corporate to supply the info.
“Proton acquired a legally binding order from Swiss authorities which we’re obligated to adjust to. There was no chance to attraction this specific request,” Yen wrote within the put up. “The prosecution on this specific case was very aggressive. Sadly, it is a sample we’ve got more and more seen lately world wide.”
Crucially, the order didn’t present the contents of the activist’s electronic mail, that are encrypted and can’t be accessed by Proton. Yen mentioned an analogous order would additionally not be capable to present ProtonVPN metadata, as VPNs are topic to totally different necessities underneath Swiss regulation.
Nonetheless, the arrest is alarming for a lot of customers of ProtonMail, who had anticipated the service to have extra sturdy protections towards authorized identification. Yen pledged to replace the service’s public documentation to “higher make clear ProtonMail’s obligations in instances of prison prosecution.”
Proton’s personal transparency report reveals the alarming development of Swiss court docket orders, together with these served on behalf of overseas investigations. In 2020, Proton complied with over 3,000 information orders from Swiss courts, greater than double the quantity served within the earlier 12 months.