Security-centric email service ProtonMail has come under criticism for its role in the arrest of a French activist who was using the platform.
A new report from TechCrunch explains that a French police report published on September 2 appears to show that police used ProtonMail to collect the IP address, a specific number that pertains to an individual computer, of an unnamed French activist who was demonstrating against real estate gentrification in Paris. The case appears to undercut ProtonMail’s assurance that it does not log the IP addresses of unique users.
Because ProtonMail is based in Switzerland, it is not subject to French or EU requests. But the company is still subject to requests from Swiss courts, where French police were able to lodge their request with the help of Europol. After Swiss courts approved the order, ProtonMail began logging IP information on the account, which was subsequently handed over to French police, leading to the activist’s identification and arrest.
The encrypted email service that’s built a reputation for safeguarding user data said it had no choice but to provide details about an activist to French authorities, amid mounting questions about the privacy protections in the popular mail client.
The company responded to the criticism, saying all companies have to comply with laws, such as court orders, so long as they operate within 15 miles of land.
“No matter what service you use, unless it is based 15 miles offshore in international waters, the company will have to comply with the law,” CEO Andy Yen said in a blog post.
Swiss-based ProtonMail is an end-to-end encrypted service that markets itself as a tool that encrypts messages and other user data before the company accesses it. It’s a technique that, for more than 50 million users, aims to provide additional layers of protection than are available with more common email options, such as Gmail.
You can read about the whole incident in detail on TechCrunch.