ProtonMail, a Swiss-based secure email provider, has been at the center of some controversy after it was forced to share the IP address of one of its clients, a climate activist, with law enforcement agencies due to a legally binding request by the Swiss authorities.
According to TechCrunch, which broke the story, the French law enforcement authorities were able to acquire the IP address of a French activist who was using ProtonMail’s services, by sending a request to the Swiss police through Europol.
The revelation was met with criticism from the company’s user base, with one user with the handle Etienne – Tek questioning what ProtonMail meant by its claim that it doesn’t keep any IP logs that could be associated with anonymous email accounts.
Now, of course Protonmail has to comply with Swiss law, but is that what you mean by "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."
— Etienne – Tek (@tenacioustek) September 5, 2021
However, he did highlight that ProtonMail’s encryption cannot be bypassed and that the company doesn’t give data to foreign governments, and it only complies with “legally binding orders from Swiss authorities”. The email provider also maintains that it doesn’t know the identity of its users due to its strict privacy measures.
Yen acknowledged that development is concerning; however, he emphasized that the company does fight for its users, “Few people know this (it’s in our transparency report), but we actually fought over 700 cases in 2020 alone. Whenever possible, we will fight requests, but it is not always possible.”