After ten years as an alternative email client that didn’t scan user information and respected privacy above all else, LavaBit is shutting down. The reason? Because the Federal government are allegedly attempting to push the Texas based company to cooperate in the case against Edward Snowden.
Snowden used LavaBit as an email client for sending an invitation to journalists and activists to meet him in a Moscow airport in July for a briefing.
Founder Ladar Levison posted a message on the LavaBit website this morning claiming to have been ‘soul searching’. He knew that he would either have to cooperate in what he says is being “complicit in crimes against the American people”, or else walk away from a project a decade in the running.
He has chosen the second option.
This is not the first time such a thing has happened. All the way back in 2004 the Federal requests for unconstitutionally gathered data was being fought in court by Nick Merrill of the Calyx Institute. It took years and a lot of money, but he won the right to partially remove the gag order he had been placed under. But it still wasn’t a complete victory.
Still, it may have had an affect, as we see Levison standing up and writing a message like this without fear of imprisonment. Which isn’t to say there is none; he still cannot tell the world exactly what he has been asked for by the NSA. He is already on his way to court on behalf of his company to fight the gag order and requests.
He has also offered this stern warning:
“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.”
Following his lead, email client Silent Circle has also shut down operations. While they have not faced any requests from the NSA as of yet, they do know it is coming. Many of their users are high profile activists and persons of interest, and they have said it is only a matter of time. The move is preemptive to stop potential NSA spying.
You can contribute to the LavaBit legal fund as they fight this gag order on their official landing page, which will be listed as the source below. They are looking at a very long, very costly fight.