Following the lead of Lavabit, the Silent Mail encrypted email service has shut down.
Yesterday, Lavabit — which was NSA whistleblower/leaker Edward Snowden’s email provider — suddenly ceased operations. As we have reported previously, Lavabit owner Ladar Levison blamed a secret government court case as the reason for the shutdown.
Silent Circle, the company that operates Silent Mail, is also shutting down on a preemptive basis before any customer’s privacy might be violated by government surveillance. The Silent Circle customer blog announced, in part, that “Today, another secure email provider, Lavabit, shut down their system lest they ‘be complicit in crimes against the American people.’ We see the writing the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now. We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now.”
The blog noted that it could not guarantee digital privacy because “Email as we know it with SMTP, POP3, and IMAP cannot be secure” and that the company internally debated for some time whether to terminate Silent Mail.
The company, whose business started to boom after the NSA surveillance revelations, still plans to continue its Silent Phone, Silent Text, and Silent Eyes platforms because it collects no metadata in those services.
Silent CIrcle CEO Michael Janke told the TechCrunch website that “There are some very high profile people on Silent Circle – – and I mean very targeted people — as well as heads of state, human rights groups, reporters, special operations units from many countries. We wanted to be proactive because we knew USG would come after us due to the sheer amount of people who use us — let alone the ‘highly targeted high-profile people.’ ”
As we have reported previously, contrary to what government officials have claimed, the National Security Agency is apparently snooping on the content of email messages to and from the USA without a warrant in a very big way.
Privacy advocates and civil libertarians across the political spectrum have strenuously argued that NSA electronic surveillance of ordinary citizens violates the 4th Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures
TechCrunch suggests, however, that the American economy could also be threatened by massive US government spying. “[NSA critics] fear international customers may take their cloud business elsewhere in an attempt to avoid the NSA… Now it seems that the negative impact won’t just be in the form of lost customers or businesses shut down upon receiving data demands. The destruction could reach as far as companies unwilling to even risk compromising their values. At this point, the nation’s best hope for reform of spying practices might be making a case that it hurts the economy.”
Were you ever a customer of either the Lavabit or Silent Mail email encryption services? Are you concerned about the privacy or lack thereof of your email traffic?
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