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ProtonMail court order leads to the arrest of French climate activist


The non-public e-mail service Protonmail is drawing harsh criticism from its customers after offering IP info linked to a French activist who used the service, as first reported by TechCrunch.

The information was requested as a part of a broader investigation into a bunch of local weather activists who’ve occupied quite a lot of residences and industrial areas in Paris. Whereas the members of the group are nameless, one had used the deal with “[email protected]” in on-line postings. In consequence, French police sought to determine any individuals linked to the account.

As a result of ProtonMail relies in Switzerland, it isn’t topic to French or EU requests. However the firm remains to be topic to requests from Swiss courts, the place French police the place capable of lodge their request with the assistance of Europol. After Swiss courts permitted the order, ProtonMail started logging IP info on the account, which was subsequently handed over to French police, resulting in the activist’s identification and arrest.

In a publish titled “Necessary clarifications concerning arrest of local weather activist,” Proton CEO Andy Yen mentioned he shared concern over the prosecution, and gave additional element on the authorized points that had pressured the corporate to supply the info.

“Proton acquired a legally binding order from Swiss authorities which we’re obligated to adjust to. There was no chance to enchantment this explicit request,” Yen wrote within the publish. “The prosecution on this explicit case was very aggressive. Sadly, this can be a sample we’ve more and more seen in recent times all over the world.”

Crucially, the order didn’t present the contents of the activist’s e-mail, that are encrypted and can’t be accessed by Proton. Yen mentioned an analogous order would additionally not be capable of present ProtonVPN metadata, as VPNs are topic to totally different necessities beneath Swiss legislation.

Nonetheless, the arrest is alarming for a lot of customers of ProtonMail, who had anticipated the service to have extra strong protections in opposition to authorized identification. Yen pledged to replace the service’s public documentation to “higher make clear ProtonMail’s obligations in instances of felony prosecution.”

Proton’s personal transparency report exhibits the alarming progress of Swiss courtroom orders, together with these served on behalf of overseas investigations. In 2020, Proton complied with over 3,000 knowledge orders from Swiss courts, greater than double the quantity served within the earlier yr.

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