Last Thursday, Texas based email provider Lavabit suddenly shut down their encrypted email service, leaving behind a message for its customers on the company’s website. The owner of Lavabit, Ladar Levinson, intimated that the company had received a secret search order from the government and shut his business down to avoid being “complicit in crimes against the American people.” The service was reportedly used by Edward Snowden.
Levinson is prohibited from explaining what lead to his decisions to shut down. He wrote:
“I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–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. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.”
Shortly after, Maryland company Silent Circle, shut its email operations down and destroyed its servers. Silent Circle did not receive any demand for information from the government but announced on their website: “We see the writing the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now. We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now.”
Larger companies do not have the luxury of shutting down operations, as they answer to shareholders and investors. Push back against government intrusion has been more of a “behind the scenes” effort, nevertheless they comply with government demands.
According to ZDNET, Kim Dotcom of MegaUpload fame is developing email servers to run on a non-US based network to fill the growing demand for secure email service.