Lavabit, Edward Snowden's preferred email service has shut down in the wake of government bullying. Ladar Levison can't talk for legal reasons about the specifics of why he shut down Lavabit, his encrypted web email company, but consider Lavabit has been his life's work. At 32 Levison has run the email service since he was 22, practically all of his adult life. What sacrifices has your congressman made lately? Lavabit had 410,000 subscribers and had recently enjoyed a surge in subscriptions since it became known that Snowden trusted his service to keep correspondence private. Levison powered off his server and posted a cryptic message that he would “become complicit in crimes against the American people” were he to stay in business.
“This is about protecting all of our users, not just one in particular. It’s not my place to decide whether an investigation is just, but the government has the legal authority to force you to do things you’re uncomfortable with,” said Levison.“The fact that I can’t talk about this is as big a problem as what they asked me to do.”
Most vexing, Levison is forbidden to say what the government wanted him to do. He could not even explain it to his single full time employee, an European based graduate student.
Following Lavabit's shutdown Silent Circle founder Phil Zimmermann, who created email encryption software PGP, said the company deleted all of its customers’ existing email and suspended its service. During the Clinton years there was talk of prosecuting Zimmermann when he uploaded PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) to an FTP server so anyone downloading it could encrypt his documents.
Zimmermann is looking for a foreign outpost. He rejects both Russia and China out of hand and figures that Canadian courts would probably enforce US court orders. European Union countries have less privacy than does the US but Switzerland which is not a member of the EU might be a good fit.
We’re working on [building servers to base in Switzerland] now. It takes time [due to] complicated agreements with European carriers. [Note: Silent Circle essentially wants to build gateways in Europe to the region's public switch network, so that someone using the Silent Circle calling or texting app outside of Europe, could call into someone without the service in the region.] That’s where we’re getting the customer demand. If you’re doing end-to-end encryption, the servers we have in Canada are just fine for that.
Like it or not defenders of NSA must admit that there are legitimate reasons for privacy. Corporations are not wont to hang proprietary information out in the cloud where it can be hacked or hoovered up by NSA with a simple trust us guarantee. Privacy will exist for those who can afford it. The rest of us will just have to suck it up until we can vote them out.