A month ago, I wrote an article called Internet Privacy for Permaculturists that recommended switching to a secure email service called Lavabit as other email companies help the NSA spy on their own users.
As it turns out, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden used Lavabit email as well. Why not anymore? Because the entire service just got turned off.
Last week, Ladar Levison, owner of Lavabit, announced that he has completely shutdown the entire email service. Levison built Lavabit to be so secure that even they themselves could not read anybody’s email. When the US government demanded he hand over Snowden’s email or face charges of being "complicit in crimes against the American people", he responded that he’s sorry, but that’s technically (and morally) impossible.
So he took a stand on the principles of liberty and freedom (and self-defence), and suspended the service with over 400,000 customers that he’s dedicated a decade of his life to.
This begs the question: If Lavabit, one of the only secure email systems in the world, just shut itself down rather than get in bed with the government, what does that say about every other email service out there?
Phil Zimmermann, the man who invented modern email encryption technology, pre-emptively closed down his own secure email service Silent Circle upon hearing the news. This man fought against the US government in the 90s (and eventually won) when he was dragged into court for aiding foreign terrorists who used his free email encryption software.
This is certainly disturbing news, when an organisation or person can be charged with crimes for the actions of their customers and users. It sets a terrible precedent and makes you wonder when they’ll be coming round for "bioterrorists" (a.k.a. permaculturists) who assist in "crimes against society" (eco self-reliance and energy independence)?
I just lost several email addresses and years of email (fortunately I backup), but I’m glad for it. I’d rather see it gone than in wrong hands. Thank you Lavabit for standing up for what’s right. We support you.
If anyone knows of some half-decent alternatives before Lavabit is (hopefully) back in business outside the US or available open source, please do share with everyone. I currently use Zoho Mail for business, but given that they have an office in the US, all bets are off.
Maybe Edward Snowden has a few ideas?