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ProtonMail denies Seb Gorka’s claim that FBI sought info on 200,000 conservative users

'At the time of writing, we can confirm that no such request has been received.'

 

Mikael Thalen

Tech

Published Oct 1, 2021   Updated Oct 1, 2021, 12:34 pm CDT

The encrypted email service ProtonMail has denied claims made by right-wing pundit Sebastian Gorka that the FBI ordered it to hand over data on nearly 200,000 users.

Gorka, who previously served as deputy assistant under President Donald Trump, sensationally alleged in a tweet that a “surveillance dragnet” had been aimed specifically at conservative users of ProtonMail.

“BREAKING: The FBI has just requested the account information for almost 200,000 @ProtonMail accounts in a mass ‘domestic terrorist’ surveillance dragnet targeting Conservatives,” Gorka tweeted.

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The tweet was widely shared by Gorka’s more than 1 million followers, who began accusing the Swiss-based email provider of betraying its users. Gorka continued to insinuate that ProtonMail had succumb to pressure from the FBI.

ProtonMail replied to Gorka’s tweet early Friday morning by denying that it had received any such request.

“At the time of writing, we can confirm that no such request has been received,” the company wrote. “Such a request would not be able to compromise ProtonMail’s encryption. Our policy is to fight against all politically motivated prosecutions, regardless of affiliation.”

Gorka made numerous references to the controversy from earlier this month that saw ProtonMail log a user’s IP address after receiving a legal request from Swiss authorities. Law enforcement entities in France had petitioned the Swiss government to seek out the data as part of an investigation into a climate activist.

ProtonMail would go on to delete a statement from its website that asserted it did “not keep any IP logs which can be linked to your anonymous email account.” The website now states that if a user is “breaking Swiss law, ProtonMail can be legally compelled to log your IP address as part of a Swiss criminal investigation.”

The email provider also stressed that it “does not give data to foreign governments” and only complies “with legally binding orders from Swiss authorities.”

Gorka did not respond to a request for comment by the Daily Dot. Requests for comment made to the FBI also went unanswered.

While the provenance of Gorka’s allegation remains unclear, Rolling Stone reported last week that the select committee in the House of Representatives investigating the January 6th Capitol riot sent preservation orders to 35 different social media and telecom companies, including ProtonMail. No evidence suggests that ProtonMail has been ordered to preserve, let alone hand over, data on nearly 200,000 users.

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*First Published: Oct 1, 2021, 12:15 pm CDT