ProtonMail is an email provider that boasts itself on end-to-end encryption. It has come under fire for handing out the IP address of a French climate activist to Swiss authorities. According to reports, the corporation was responding to a request for assistance from French authorities via Europol. ProtonMail is a swiss-based company. So, it has to abide by the laws of the country. The company’s own transparency report indicates that this includes logging IP addresses from users in severe criminal cases.
Proton CEO Andy Yen wrote in a blog post that they are bound by the local laws. In the case mentioned, they received an order from the authorities. He added that they had to provide the necessary and had no means to go against the order.
Activists seized up commercial sites and apartments near Paris’s Place Sainte Marthe in the case at hand. According to reports, the demonstration started as a local effort to combat gentrification in the area but swiftly turned into a national movement in France. They wrote an article on September 1st saying that French officials had sent a message through Europol to find out who had created their ProtonMail account.
Yen points out that because of the encryption it cannot access the contents of a ProtonMail account, and it is also unaware of its users’ identities. As a result, it had no idea it was disclosing information about climate activists in this case. Moving ahead, he says the firm will be more transparent about how it handles criminal prosecutions, and it will promote the usage of ProtonMail via its Tor site and VPN for consumers who are concerned about their privacy.
Proton says it received 3,572 demands for customer information in 2020, fought against 750 of them, and eventually responded to 3,017 of them.