ProtonMail, a popular email service that is known for its end-to-end encryption, has come under fire after giving up a French climate activist’s IP address to Swiss police.
TechCrunch reported that Swiss authorities sought help from Swiss authorities in response to a request for assistance sent to them through Europol.
ProtonMail revealed the IP address of one of the activists
ProtonMail must follow Swiss laws since it is based in Switzerland. According to its own transparency report, it also logs IP addresses in “extreme criminal cases.”
As CEO Andy Yen pointed out in a recent blog post, Proton was trying to be clear that it had to follow local laws. According to him, Swiss authorities gave Proton a legally binding order to comply with in this case. “This particular request could not be appealed.”
The activists in question have now taken over apartments and commercial spaces near Paris’s Place Sainte Marthe. TechCrunch reports that the protest in France started out as a local movement against gentrification, but quickly became a national movement.
They published an article on September 1st that claimed French authorities had sent a message through Europol to discover who set up their ProtonMail account.
ProtonMail’s encryption prevents the company from viewing the contents of an account, and it also does not know its users’ identities. The company wasn’t aware that it was disclosing information about climate activists.
ProtonMail will increase its transparency over criminal prosecution cases moving forward, and it will further promote its use of Tor, as well as its VPN, which is designed for users concerned with privacy.
Proton reports that in 2020 it received 3,572 requests for user information, contested 750 of them, and complied with 3,017 of them.