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French climate activist arrested by order of protonmail court

French climate activist arrested by order of protonmail court

As previously reported by TechCrunch, private email service ProtonMail is drawing harsh criticism from its users after providing IP information linked to a French employee using the service.

The data was requested as part of a broader investigation into a group of climate activists who have taken over several apartments and commercial spaces in Paris. While members of the group are anonymous, one used the address "" in an online posting. As a result, French police sought to identify anyone linked to the account.

"The prosecution was very aggressive in this particular case"
Because ProtonMail is based in Switzerland, it is not subject to French or European Union requests. But the company is still subject to requests from the Swiss courts, where French police were able to file their request with the help of Europol. After Swiss courts approved the order, ProtonMail began recording IP information on the account, which was later handed over to French police, leading to the activist's identification and arrest.

In a post titled "Important Clarification Regarding Climate Activist's Arrest," Proton CEO Andy Yen said he shared concerns over the prosecution, and gave further details on the legal issues that compelled the company to provide the data. did. Was.

“Proton received a legally binding order from the Swiss authorities which we are obliged to comply with. There was no possibility to appeal this particular request,” Yen wrote in the Post. “The prosecution in this particular case was very aggressive . Unfortunately, this is a pattern that we have increasingly seen around the world in recent years."

Importantly, the order did not provide the contents of the worker's emails, which are encrypted and cannot be accessed by Proton. Yen said a similar order would also not enable ProtonVPN to provide metadata, as VPNs are subject to different requirements under Swiss law.

Still, the arrest is alarming for many users of ProtonMail, who expected the service to have a more robust protection against legal identity. Yen pledged to update the service's public documentation to "better clarify ProtonMail's obligations in criminal prosecution."

Proton's own transparency report reflects the alarming escalation of Swiss court orders, including orders for foreign investigations. In 2020, Proton complied with more than 3,000 data orders from Swiss courts, more than double the number from the previous year.

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