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Summary:

Edward Snowden’s email service of choice has suddenly turned out the lights.

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photo: Thinkstock

Less than a month after it was identified as the email service that Edward Snowden used to leak NSA documents, LavaBit has suddenly and mysteriously shuttered.

The service’s creator, Ladar Levison, cited pending legal woes for the shutdown. Although he remained vague about the details, it’s likely to have something to do with the June scandal that rocked the nation:

 “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.”

The privacy-minded email service had plenty of features that make it more secure than your typical email service — particularly asymmetrical encryption, which encrypts a message on Lavabit’s servers, requiring a password for anyone to read it. Lavabit’s focus on privacy means that not even the platform could read or analyze messages as they were transmitted, although that doesn’t seem to have stopped the site from being criminally implicated.

Levinson wrote that Lavabit has filed the proper papers to take the case to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, where a favorable verdict could put the website back online. But he said the experience has significantly weakened his trust in the U.S. as a place to do business.

“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.”

  1. What the f..k?!!! Does this mean private (secure) communications are against the law in the US of A?

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    1. yes

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  2. Shutting down service is the most honest reaction if the privacy of users can no longer be guaranteed. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple and others have millions of users who would stick with them despite privacy concerns. By contrast, Lavabit’s entire service was built with security in mind more than anything else. Betraying its users’ trust by keeping quiet would have been dishonest. I applaud Mr Levison’s honesty and hope this sends a signal to the industry. I for one have decided to switch away from my US-based e-mail provider.

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