ProtonMail Logs Activist's IP Address With Authorities After Swiss Court Order

silversurfer

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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.

Update

In 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."
 
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CyberDevil

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Apr 4, 2021
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It is not exaggerated. Law enforcement can compel a VPN to keep logs as part of an investigation. It is trivial for the VPN to enable logging. You are not understanding what law enforcement made proton do in this case. The officials were not looking for past logs that did not exist. They compelled proton to enable logging and then turn over that data.
What Is a VPN Warrant Canary and How It Works - Anonymania - Therefore, the more private VPNs have VPN Warrant Canary. But, actually, the original news seems to be about Proton Mail, not Proton VPN? It's just that you started talking about VPN services from the beginning.
 

CyberDevil

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Apr 4, 2021
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Law enforcement can compel a VPN NOT to not use the warrant canary via valid gag orders. That makes the VPN keep operating in a manner so as to not tip off users. That is why warrant canaries are worthless.
Won't we soon come to the point of cyping through vaccines? (if anyone with power can make anyone do anything) If the authorities of a particular country can force a VPN to break Warrant Canary, then it should change jurisdiction, which respectable companies do when their service comes under pressure, like Quad9 DNS recently moved (although there it was more a question of marketing and basic privacy compliance rather than anonymity). No one should use any services from Fourteen Eyes countries and some countries with dictatorial regimes for political activity or some kind of volunteering (I do not consider criminal in principle out of morality) and then the canary will most likely work (or not be needed at all). Switzerland is definitely not a strange one that guarantees anonymity, something the volunteers should have thought about. (By the way, I have not studied the details of the news, so I do not know what these people were doing, so I do not give any moral assessment of this incident).
 

Arequire

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Interesting homepage change today, ProtonMail... (Left: 3:36pm. Right: 4:19pm.)
Before.png
After.png
 

rain2reign

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Jun 21, 2020
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If I still remember it correctly, when Proton first launched many a year ago, they did mention multiple times in their legal policy that they would follow an official order of the Swiss court. Though they also mentioned at the time in the same paragraph, whether there is something to share (or access) is another point of discussion.
 

brambedkar59

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Arequire

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From your referenced post, this blog post seems reasonable to me.
View attachment 260444
Good find. 👍

I only noticed the change because I couldn't find the quote about ProtonMail not logging IPs that Hacker News used for their article, so I decided to go searching.
 
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SpiderWeb

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Aug 21, 2020
281
Someone mentioned that it was a warrant by Europol. lol I mean c'mon man. Nobody is going to jail for you when you get a search warrant from Europol/Interpol. That means you screwed up BIG time and maybe you shouldn't be anywhere near any Internet connection for a few months.

This is why the whole "it's in Switzerland" proposition doesn't work anymore. Switzerland has many agreements with the EU, Germany and the US in particular because so many people from those countries use it to hide their stuff and do illegal activities. If you wanna hide you need to have your jurisdiction/HQ in like Panama, Gibraltar or wherever those VPN CEOs are hiding lol. Switzerland hasn't been a haven for secrecy in years but it still has that reputation.
 

SpiderWeb

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Aug 21, 2020
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I mean their warrant canary has been tripped many times over the past 7 years: ProtonMail Transparency Report 2021 (Update) - ProtonMail Blog
View attachment 260444
It's very ironic because you cannot sign up for a ProtonMail account through Tor unless you provide a phone number. IP....phone number. What's the difference?
 

The_King

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Aug 2, 2020
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Panama, Gibraltar, Malta, Maldives, Ascension Island, they will all cooperate with law enforcement.


I find it ludicrous whenever people get upset that digital services such as VPN cooperate with law enforcement in conducting criminal investigations.
When Governments use the law to label anyone who opposes their current administration or regime has a "criminal", then it is a big problem.

Since this is what most Activists (a person who campaigns to bring about political or social change) do, it's definitely not a good thing.
 
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