ProtonMail faces criticism after leading police to the arrest of a climate activist

ProtonMail faces criticism after leading police to the arrest of a climate activist
ProtonMail is a secure email serviceProtonMail
  • Privacy-oriented ProtonMail has been facing criticism for helping authorities arrest a climate activist.
  • ProtonMail shared the IP address of a user after receiving a request from Europol.
  • The company has said that it had received a legally binding order from the Swiss courts and there was no possibility to appeal it.
ProtonMail, a hosted email service that prides itself on its privacy-oriented end-to-end encryption, is facing criticism after leading the authorities to the arrest of a French climate activist.

As per a TechCrunch report, ProtonMail has said that it was acting on a request sent via Europol by French authorities. The French police had sent a request to the Swiss police via Europol and had forced the company to reveal the IP address of the activist.

ProtonMail did not know it was leading authorities to a climate activist

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The data was requested as part of an investigation into a group of climate activists who have occupied several commercial spaces and apartments in Paris to protest gentrification, real estate speculation and high-end restaurants.

While the members of the activist group are anonymous, one of the members had used the email address “” for online posts and communication. The French Police lodged a request in the Swiss courts with the help of Europol as ProtonMail is based in Switzerland.


After receiving an approval from Swiss Courts, ProtonMail began logging IP information on the account and handed over the information to the French police.

Replying to a user who had questioned ProtonMail over the incident, Andy Yen in a tweet said, “Proton must comply with Swiss law. As soon as a crime is committed, privacy protections can be suspended and we're required by Swiss law to answer requests from Swiss authorities.”

In addition to this, in a blog post, ProtonMail has said, “Proton received a legally binding order from Swiss authorities which we are obligated to comply with. There was no possibility to appeal this particular request.”

While Swiss law requires mandatory notification to users if a person’s data has been requested by the authorities, there was an eight months delay in this instance.

As per the ProtonMail user notification policy, delays can affect notifications if – it is temporarily prohibited by the Swiss legal process itself, by a Swiss court order or applicable Swiss law.

While Switzerland was considered a bastion of privacy, this has been changing for some time now. As per ProtonMail’s transparency report, orders by Swiss authorities for data have increased from 13 in 2017 to 3,572 in 2020.


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