- Aug 17, 2014
End-to-end encrypted email service provider ProtonMail has drawn criticism after it ceded to a legal request and shared the IP address of anti-gentrification activists with law enforcement authorities, leading to their arrests in France.
The Switzerland-based company said it received a "legally binding order from the Swiss Federal Department of Justice" related to a collective called Youth for Climate, which it was "obligated to comply with," compelling it to handover the IP address and information related to the type of device used by the group to access the ProtonMail account.
On its website, ProtonMail advertises that: "No personal information is required to create your secure email account. By default, we do not keep any IP logs which can be linked to your anonymous email account. Your privacy comes first."
Despite its no IP logs claims, the company acknowledged that while it's illegal for the company to abide by requests from non-Swiss law enforcement authorities, it will be required to do so if Swiss agencies agree to assist foreign services such as Europol in their investigations.
"There was no possibility to appeal or fight this particular request because an act contrary to Swiss law did in fact take place (and this was also the final determination of the Federal Department of Justice which does a legal review of each case)," the company said in a lengthy response posted on Reddit.
UpdateIn a blog post titled "Important clarifications regarding arrest of climate activist," Andy Yen said the company "can be forced to collect information on accounts belonging to users under Swiss criminal investigation. This is obviously not done by default, but only if Proton gets a legal order for a specific account."