India might block Proton Mail

ProtonMail receives criticism after revealing the IP address of an activist

Proton, the Swiss-based software company known for its focus on privacy, has revealed that it received a notification regarding a potential block of Proton Mail in India. This action follows reports of the service being exploited for sending bomb threats to schools in the state of Tamil Nadu.

In a statement to the daily Hindustan Times, a spokesperson from Proton condemned the prospect of a block, denouncing it as a misguided approach that would adversely affect ordinary citizens. They emphasized that blocking access to Proton would not effectively address the reported threats, as cybercriminals could easily switch to alternative email services. Moreover, such measures would prove futile if the perpetrators operate from outside India.

According to a report by Hindustan Times on Thursday, the Indian Ministry of Information Technology issued a notice to local internet service providers instructing them to block access to Proton Mail following a request from the Tamil Nadu police. The police reported that several private schools in Chennai had received hoax bomb threats.

D. Ashok Kumar, a senior officer from the Tamil Nadu cybercrime wing, informed Moneycontrol on Friday that he had initiated the request to the IT Ministry for blocking access to Proton Mail. He cited the service’s limited cooperation in providing information about the suspects behind the bomb threats due to its end-to-end encryption, making it challenging to trace them.

Proton Mail refrained from commenting on Thursday, while the IT Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

The possibility of blocking Proton Mail in India has raised concerns among lawmakers and privacy advocacy groups. Saket Gokhale, a member of India’s upper house Rajya Sabha, expressed apprehension over the potential block, highlighting the importance of privacy for sources and whistleblowers who communicate with reporters using Proton Mail to safeguard their identities.

A potential block on Proton Mail would mark the second significant setback for the Switzerland-based company. In 2022, Proton was compelled to remove its Proton VPN servers from India in compliance with local legislation mandating virtual private network operators to disclose customer information to New Delhi.