NEWS FROM THE LAB - Friday, August 9, 2013

Encrypted Communications Service Goes Silent Posted by Sean @ 11:44 GMT

A privacy focused e-mail service used by Edward Snowden has shuttered its doors.

According to the owner and operator, Ladar Levison:

"I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision."


His notification also includes the following words:

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.

That's a strong statement.

So what's this all about? And why can't Levison share the details regarding his decision to shut down Lavabit? Well, his inability to talk is probably either due to a warrant or a national security letter (NSL). Here's the thing about an NSL — a lifetime gag-order comes attached.

There are only three organizations that have ever won the right to say they received an NSL of the hundreds of thousands issued.

Nicholas Merrill is one such individual, and he spoke about it to WNYC's Bob Garfield in 2011:

National Security Letters and Gag Orders

Brewster Kahle, the founder of the (awesome) nonprofit Internet Archive, is another.

New Yorker: What It�s Like to Get a National-Security Letter

Lavabit's closure is having a chilling effect. Another encrypted communications company, Silent Circle, has followed Lavabit's lead.

Ars Technica: After Lavabit shutdown, another encrypted e-mail service closes