Earlier today, a Swiss lawyer named Martin Steiger published a factually incorrect article about ProtonMail on his blog, alleging, among other things, that “ProtonMail voluntarily offers assistance for real-time surveillance.”
Martin Steiger’s claim is factually incorrect, and Mr. Steiger is also aware that this claim is false. Not only have we informed him multiple times that his claim is false, but the alleged source of his story, a Swiss public prosecutor, has also refuted these claims (this is hidden at the bottom of Mr. Steiger’s article).
So that there can be no ambiguity: ProtonMail does not voluntarily offer assistance as alleged. We only do so when ordered by a Swiss court or prosecutor, as we are obligated to follow the law in all criminal cases. Furthermore, ProtonMail’s end-to-end encryption means we cannot be forced by a court to provide unencrypted message contents.
ProtonMail cannot be used for any purposes that are illegal under Swiss law. Not only is this against our terms and conditions, we are also obligated by law to assist police investigations in criminal cases. However, the claim that we do this voluntarily is entirely false.
Laws are subject to interpretation, and because the relevant Swiss law itself is ambiguous, there are differing interpretations of the law. Steiger’s interpretation is different from the one taken by the Swiss government agency tasked with enforcing the law, whose directives we are legally obligated to comply with. His interpretation, therefore, is just an opinion, and not grounded in legal reality.
However, we also do not agree with the interpretation taken by some branches of the Swiss government. Therefore, we have asked the Swiss Federal Administrative Tribunal to rule on the appropriate interpretation of the law, and we will appeal to the Swiss Supreme Court if necessary. Until a ruling comes down (in one- or two-years’ time), our company policy has consistently been to take the most pro-privacy position, which is indeed the position we have taken in all our court filings.
User privacy is our highest priority, and whether it is through our technology, open source software, or through our litigation and advocacy, we are committed to protecting the fundamental human right to privacy.
The ProtonMail Team
You can get a free secure email account from ProtonMail here.
We also provide a free VPN service to protect your privacy.