Sunday, August 11, 2013

Lavabit

Sometimes you see a story that gives you hope for the future.  You see a man who stands for principle.  It makes you feel as though you could do the same.

Lavabit is--was until recently, actually--an e-mail service provider.  No longer.

First check out their website:
http://lavabit.com/
My Fellow Users,
I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. 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.
What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.
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.
Sincerely,
Ladar Levison
Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC
Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund here.
What made Lavabit different?  Check out this article from Forbes:
"Email Company Used By Edward Snowden Shuts Down Rather Than Hand Data Over To Feds" by Kashmir Hill
http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2013/08/08/email-company-reportedly-used-by-edward-snowden-shuts-down-rather-than-hand-data-over-to-feds/

Lavabit was the e-mail service used by Edward Snowden.  Why did he use it?  Why shut down the service?
Texas-based Lavabit came into being in 2004 as an alternative to Google’s Gmail, as an email provider that wouldn’t scan users’ email for keywords. Being identified as the provider of choice for the country’s most famous NSA whistleblower led to a flurry of attention for Lavabit and its encrypted email services, from journalists, and also, apparently, from government investigators. Lavabit founder Ladar Levison announced Thursday that he’s shutting down the company rather than cooperating with a government investigation (presumably into Snowden).
Some implications of this push by the NSA to scan our e-mail accounts?
“I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States,” writes Levison, based on his experience. This message seems to be a loud and clear one. Washington, D.C.-based think tank Information Technology and Innovation Foundation predicts that U.S. cloud companies will lose from $21.5 to $35 billion over the next three years. They admit that it is a “rough guess” based on surveys about the chilling effects of the NSA leaks on U.S.-based cloud businesses.

Another article, from Wired:
"Edward Snowden’s Email Provider Shuts Down Amid Secret Court Battle" by Keven Poulsen
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/08/lavabit-snowden/

Interesting reactions from Lavabit users.
Update 19:45: Lavabit has 350,000 users who aren’t Edward Snowden, and some are decidedly unhappy with Levison’s decision, judging by a flood of angry comments posted to Lavabit’s Facebook page this afternoon.
“Too bad that I payed some years in advance to keep up the good work that now turns out to be terminated without any warning,” wrote one user. “I relied on this service which is basic for my private as professional online communication and have no idea how to migrate mails and recover mails being sent that never reached me in the past 18 hours.”
“I have my Steam account and EVERYTHING on Lavabit,” wrote another. “Please have the servers running so that we can migrate our services.”
“How am I supposed to migrate?” a third user added. “Some services require a confirmation sent to the old email address to be able to switch. I can’t believe this. I just switched to Lavabit only a couple of weeks ago to get away from Hotmail snooping my shit.”
A minority of commenters were more supportive. “Holy shit, you guys are crying over your Steam accounts,” wrote one. “Just change your email to something else. Lavabit either had to roll over for the government, compromising our privacy, or shut down service. Be happy Ladar shut it down instead of rolling over.”