ProtonMail gave the French police the IP address of an activist after a European warrant, although until now it claimed that it does not keep records.
The Swiss-based company said it had received a "legally binding order from the Swiss Federal Ministry of Justice" about a group called Youth for Climate, to which it was "forced to comply", forcing it to provide the IP address and related information. for the device type 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 maintain IP logs that can be linked to your anonymous email account. Your privacy comes first ".
Despite the IP non-logging policy, the company acknowledged that it would have to deliver the ips if the Swiss services requested it. It may not be obliged to provide information to police authorities in foreign countries, but… if they request it through Europol and therefore through the Swiss authorities it will have to comply.
"There was no possibility of appealing or combating this specific request because an act contrary to Swiss law was actually carried out", the company said in a long reply posted on Reddit.
Simply put, ProtonMail must not only comply with Swiss government orders, but will be forced to deliver data when people who use its service engage in activities that are considered illegal in their country.
It does not matter what the Youth for Climate team did and is being pursued by the French police. The meaning of the news is that the much-advertised anonymity has many asterisks and windows. Even if it is advertised in capital letters, as in ProtonMail. If nothing else, ProtonMail users who are concerned about the visibility of their IPs will now have to use a VPN or access the email service through the Tor network for additional anonymity.
Wanting to gild the pill, ProtonMail added: "The prosecution in this case seems quite aggressive. "Unfortunately, this is a pattern that we are seeing more and more in recent years around the world, for example in France where terrorism laws are being used inappropriately."