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Lavabit shuts down

Lavabit was, until a few hours ago, a secure email hosting company with something over 400,000 customers. One of their users was (apparently) Edward Snowden.

They have shut down, apparently because they refused to assist in spying on their own clients, as similar companies such as Hushmail are reputed to do.

Unfortunately, US law now makes it a crime to discuss requests from our masters for “assistance” of this sort, so we can only assume that this is what has happened. Presuming the guess to be true, I commend them for their sense of honor. Many would not ruin themselves when faced with a choice between keeping their promises and obeying the authority of a police state.

Quoting their “goodbye” page:

“This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.”

24 comments to Lavabit shuts down

  • Pardone

    Eisenhower warned people about this before he left office. A bit too late now, given the MIC is now so huge and has its claws deep into the US taxpayer that nothing will stop it gaining more and more power.

  • Tedd

    I don’t think it’s fair to blame the MIC for this; it’s about government power and control. Industry and the military have little interest or complicity in it (except for a few businesses, whose complicity can easily be explained in terms of duty to shareholders, even if we don’t agree with it).

  • AndrewWS

    “The first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise.”

    Bloody hell.

    “I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.” Which presumably includes banks and much else besides. I suppose some congressional jerk is going to describe this as “undermining the economy of the US” and demand that it be made a crime.

  • Heh – I’d just come here to post about the same thing. I think it is clear what happened.

    Ladar Levison has done the right thing. He’s a hero. Imagine if Google had done this.

  • Dr Weevil

    I never heard of Lavabit, but now I’m wondering if the name is a pun. It looks like “Lava Bit”, perhaps a fiery flow of tiny bits of data, but “lavabit” is Latin for he/she/it will wash, as in washing off all clues of your identity?

  • They are accepting donations for their legal-defense fund – I can’t think of a more worthy cause.

  • Secure alternatives to common web services: https://prism-break.org/

  • Ellen

    Cloud data storage, anyone?

  • Richard Thomas

    Ellen, that appears to be the implication, yes.

  • Mr Ed

    I have just opened a Runbox email account in Norway. You pay for it, but then again TINSTAAFL.

    Alisa is probably facing a Federal indictment for aiding and abetting a breach of national security by publicising a legal defense fund.

  • bradley13

    I hope this helps drive a mass migration away from US-based service providers. Hit the big companies in the pocket, and perhaps they will tell their purchased Congresscritters to change things.

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    Silent Circle have not been forced into anything, they have just realised that they can not offer what they hoped they could offer. Edward Snowden has forced a massive rethink of how to organise the Internet. He has done us a great service.

  • Edward Snowden has forced a massive rethink of how to organise the Internet. He has done us a great service.

    Indeed, Rob. But it is also not to be overlooked that he has done a similar service to the other side as well. My hope is that their side is slower than ours.

  • Laird

    What “other side”, Alisa? It can’t have been a secret to al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations that the NSA has its eyes on them and has many tools to monitor their activities. The only people who were surprised by Snowden’s revelations were ordinary, law-abiding Americans who woke up one morning to learn that their own government has been treating them just like terrorists. If there is truly an “other side” to the NSA in all this it’s the American people, and I certainly do not hope that we are slow to respond to the threat posed by our own government.

  • Laird, the other side is the US Government (and probably other Western governments as well).

  • Laird

    Apologies for misunderstanding you, Alisa.

  • No problem, Laird:-)

  • Mr Ed:

    I have just opened a Runbox email account in Norway. You pay for it, but then again TINSTAAFL.

    Having used Lavabit as my main e-mail, I considered doing something similar, but I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s probably no point. Using a “secure” e-mail provider means putting your trust in someone you don’t know to stand up in the face of intense pressure, when you probably have no recourse if they don’t. Ladar Levison took a stand, but, if fear or financial pressures had pushed him to comply with the state’s demands, we would likely have never known. In short, unless you can personally verify that your e-mail provider protects your privacy, I think you have to assume that they don’t.

    Even if you have a totally trustworthy e-mail provider, it guarantees nothing once you send an e-mail; you have no control over how it is routed and if the recipient’s e-mail provider is less secure than yours, your security drops to their level.

    My only response has been to set up a contact page on my website, which encrypts a message in the browser using PGP and forwards it to me using the PHP mail function. That way, the message is encrypted end-to-end and to my e-mail provider, it looks like I’ve e-mailed it to myself. I think that’s as good as it can get and I advise anybody who wants to send me something which they wouldn’t want to be made public to contact me that way. Other than that, I assume that any e-mail sent or received is insecure.

  • Alsadius

    This has always been illegal. Subpoenas to turn over evidence are hardly a creation of the War on Terror.

  • Paul Marks

    Pardone – defence and national security took about 10% of national income in 1960, they now take about 4%.

    The idea that the FINANCIAL burden of defence and national security has grown over time is simply factually untrue.

    The problem is not the financial burden (which has shrunk and is shrinking) – the problem is the growing threat to CIVIL LIBERTIES.

    If humans are beings (agents) then it is wrong to violate their civil liberties.

    Of course, if humans are not beings (agents) then the very idea that they have civil rights is absurd.

    Robots (whether made of metal or of flesh) do not have rights – unless the robot develops agency (a reasoning “I”) of its own. In which case it is no longer really a robot – it has become a PERSON.

  • Paul Marks

    The above also applies to the state officials (and politicians) themselves.

    They are people – what they are doing (by spying on other, innocent, people) is a moral offence – it is a moral offence because they (the officials and politicians) could have chosen to do otherwise than what they have done.

    Without choice (without the ability to have done otherwise than what one did) there is no such thing as a moral offence – indeed their is no such thing as moral responsibility or morality at all.

    One can not have such things as the Fourth Amendment without the PHILOSOPHY that lies behind the Bill of Rights.

    The “we hold the truths to be self evident” philosophy of Thomas Reid and others (the philosophy of the existence of the “I” – agency).

    It is a package deal.

    One can not have political libertarianism without the philosophical libertarianism that is its foundation.

    This does NOT mean the human mind is invulnerable – on the contrary conditioning (brainwashing) in both mild and extreme forms most certainly does exist. This is why libertarians are needed – to alert human beings to the threat to the independence of their own minds and to help them fight such attacks.

    If the human mind was invulnerable there would be no need to fear attacks upon it undermining freedom (but it is not invulnerable), just as if the human body were invulnerable there would be no need to fear that attacks upon it (chains, bullets and so on) would undermine freedom – but the human body is not invulnerable.

    Both body and mind are open to attack – freedom is not automatic, it must be defended (by eternal vigilance).