The email service Protonmail, whose logo is the protection of its users’ privacy and the encryption of sensitive information, has been under investigation since the questionable persecution of a French activist tracked via this same email system.
Last month, we discussed the first background information on this case, which subsequently resulted in the arrest of a French protestor identified through this channel.
Activist identified through Protonmail arrested in France
Protonmail responded to a request from the French justice system through Europol, the European Police Office, by providing information that assisted in identifying a French dissident being persecuted in his own country.
Through the “[email protected]” account, one of the members of an activist group that organized demonstrations against real estate speculation, occupation of the property, and other unlawful activities was identified.
Protonmail offers encryption for messages sent, but the Swiss-based firm had to provide the email address under investigation as well as the connected IP address, data on the device used, and the number with which the device was identified.
Following the identification of one of the individuals linked to the specified account, the French judicial system moved swiftly to detain him. In response to the criticism, which stated that Protonmail’s privacy promise was fraudulent, the firm provided a letter of clarification.
The message entitled “Important clarifications on the arrest of climate activist”, signed by Andy Yen, CEO of the company behind Protonmail, clarified some points questioned after this episode.
In the letter they sent to Proton, Cryptography for the Masses states that its email encryption cannot be broken. The firm also says that it does not respond to demands from foreign governments unless such demands are channeled through a system that complies with their country’s laws.
In this instance, the request from the French legal system, mediated by Europol, reached the Swiss port “through channels usually used for significant offenses,” according to the message from the firm, which emphasizes in the same text that because to its reach, it is impossible to identify users using this service.
In this instance, the request from the French legal system, mediated by Europol, reached the Swiss port “through channels usually used for significant offenses,”. According to the company’s message, which emphasizes in the same text that because of the methods within its power, it is impossible to determine the identity of its users, even if it clarifies that according to its records, it was not able to identify that the target users of this French operation were climate protesters.
Following this event, the security provided by Protonmail is being put to the test. However, the aforementioned Protonmail message adds that a VPN is one of the finest options.
Those who put their faith in the security offered by this service most are now skeptical of it, naturally. Lastly, Yen committed to updating ProtonMail’s public documentation “to make it more clear what obligations the firm has in instances of criminal prosecution.”