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ProtonMail Privacy In Question After Handing Over IP Address To Authorities

The Swiss mail service ProtonMail is characterized above all by the fact that it attaches great importance to data protection, above all the messages are encrypted. ProtonMail also emphasizes that it does not track users and store identifiable data. But there are exceptions.

ProtonMail itself has an excellent reputation and is often used by journalists and activists who want to be safe from persecution and exposure. But now ProtonMail found it difficult to explain because, as Netzpolitik.org reports, something happened that shouldn’t have happened. The mail service, which is actually not supposed to store any IP addresses, has done just that, namely issued a stored IP address to authorities.

Specifically, it is about the allegation that ProtonMail has handed over the IP address of a climate activist to French authorities. The focus of the matter is the group “Youth for Climate”, which, according to the Paris police, is in connection with the squatter scene. The authorities accuse at least one Youth of Climate member of theft, damage to property, and trespassing.

But how does ProtonMail get an IP address that you say you shouldn’t have? So far ProtonMail wrote on its own page: “By default, we do not save any IP logs that can be linked to your anonymous e-mail account. Your privacy comes first.”

No IP storage, except …

The whole thing obviously has one big but: Because as it now came out, you save the IPs and give them out if you have to: On the basis of a mutual legal assistance agreement, the Swiss authorities have obtained the IP addresses for their French colleagues.

ProtonMail founder Andy Yen confirmed all of this on Twitter, but tried to blame the system: “It is unfortunate that legal resources intended for serious crimes are used in this way. But by law ProtonMail has to comply with Swiss criminal investigations. Of course, this does not happen by default, but only when it is required by law. “

Yen guarantees that the data will only be saved if there is an explicit order. But that happens more often than expected, in 2020 alone there were several thousand such IP storage. ProtonMail has now published a statement stating that these obligations will be made transparent in the future: “We will update our website to better clarify ProtonMail’s obligations in the event of criminal prosecution, and we apologize if this is not clear was. “