Through a Swiss warrant, police obtained the IP address of a French activist.
After providing IP information linking to a French activist using Protonmail’s private email service, Protonmail is being criticized by its users. TechCrunch first reported this criticism.
This data was required as part of a more extensive investigation into climate activists who occupy various Paris apartments and commercial spaces. While the group members are anonymous, one had used the address “email@example.com” in online postings. French police were able to identify anyone linked to the account.
“THE PROSECUTION, IN THIS CASE, WAS VERY ACCESSIVE”
ProtonMail, which is based in Switzerland, is not subject to French and EU requests. However, the company can still be requested by Swiss courts. French police were able to file their request through Europol. ProtonMail started to log IP information on the account after the Swiss court approved it. This led to the arrest of the activist and his identification.
In a post titled “Important clarifications regarding the arrest of climate activist,” Proton CEO Andy Yen said he shared concern over the prosecution and gave further detail on the legal issues that had forced the company to provide the data.
“Proton was issued a legally binding order by Swiss authorities, which we are obliged to follow,” Yen stated in the post that there was no way to appeal this request. “The prosecution, in this case, was highly aggressive. This is a pattern that we have seen more often in recent years all over the globe.
The order didn’t provide the contents of the activist’s email. These emails are encrypted and can not be accessed Proton. Yen stated that a similar order wouldn’t provide ProtonVPN metadata as VPNs are subjected to different requirements under Swiss law.
However, ProtonMail users are still concerned about the arrest. They had expected more robust legal identification protections. Yen promised to update ProtonMail’s public documentation to “better explain ProtonMail’s obligations in criminal prosecution cases.”
Proton’s transparency report shows the alarming growth of Swiss court orders, including those served on behalf of foreign investigations. Proton received more than 3,000 data orders from Swiss courts in 2020, nearly twice the amount served the previous year.