ProtonMail, an encrypted-email service, has been chastised for giving over user information to the government.
The Swiss firm promotes its privacy features, stating that users will be able to “take control” of their personal information.
However, ProtonMail stated that it was legally required to acquire data from an account tied to a “climate activist” arrested by French authorities.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, has joined the company’s advisory board.
“I am a firm proponent of privacy – and Proton’s ideals, to give people control of their data, are closely matched to my vision of the web at its full potential,” Sir Tim stated in a news release announcing his appointment.
According to the website of ProtonMail, encrypted emails “can not be shared with third parties.”
In addition to providing end-to-end encryption, the company stated that it did not maintain “any IP [Internet Protocol] logs that can be traced to your anonymous email account” by default.
However, several consumers believed it had fallen short of that promise.
ProtonMail has since taken it down from the top page of its website, which it claimed it would update to clarify its commitments “in circumstances of criminal prosecution – and we apologize if this was not clear.”
ProtonMail announced on its blog that Swiss authorities had issued a “legally binding” order to collect data.
However, the corporation said it had no idea the targeted user was a climate activist.
“We only know that the Swiss government’s request for data came through procedures that are usually designated for serious criminality,” it stated.
The company claims to have always been upfront about the fact that, while it does not normally store logs, it may be forced to record IP data associated with an account.
And it got over 3,500 requests for assistance from Swiss authorities last year, compared to just 13 in 2017.
The corporation expressed its support for activists and urged that individuals desiring anonymity join the Tor network, which masks users’ IP addresses behind several levels of security.