Lavabit’s founder speaks out about government-spurred shutdown

Aug 13, 2013
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Lavabit’s founder speaks out about government-spurred shutdown

If you recall, earlier this month the encrypted email service Lavabit abruptly shutdown, killing the service for over 400,000 users in one swoop. Following that, another encrypted email service run by Silent Circle was preemptively shutdown. Although Ladar Levison, the creator of Lavabit, is under a gag order that prevents him from talking about the particulars of the situation, he isn't keeping silent on the matter.

Lavabit, an encrypted email service that has been around for many years, shutdown on August 8 with a note on the home page from its founder stating that he'd been entangled in a legal issue for weeks before the decision, and that he was not authorized to discuss what it concerned. He did say, however, that he made the decision to shut down the service to avoid being "complicit in crimes against the American people."

He wrapped it up with a rather ominous warning that users should avoid trusting their private data to US corporations. Although he still has not given any particulars about the situation, he has spoken to several media outlets at this point, alluding to and otherwise dropping just about as much information as it seems he can legally get away with, and they all concern the same idea:

"I think that if the American people knew what our government was doing, they wouldn't be allowed to do it anymore. My hope is that the media can uncover what's going on without my assistance." His decision to speak out in greater length about his decision to shutdown the service is, at least in part, to help try to get laws changed that will prevent the situation he found himself in from continuing.

Perhaps with a dose of irony, the Lavabit founder created the email service in response to the Patriot Act. Since that time, he went on to amass nearly half a million users, one of which was Edward Snowden. Shortly after it was revealed that Snowden used his email service, Levison shutdown the service and put up his vague public statement. Not only is he not allowed to discuss the matter publicly, he is also barred from talking about certain aspects of it with his lawyer, Jesse Binnall.

Said Binnall: "[Ladar] has to watch every word he says when he's talking to the press for fear of being imprisoned. And we can't even talk about what the legal requirements are that makes it so he has to watch his words. But the simple fact is that I'm here with him only because there are some very fine lines that he can't cross for fear of being dragged away in handcuffs."

SOURCE: Ars Technica


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