In the weeks since Edward Snowden leaked data on the NSA’s widespread phone and Internet surveillance systems, it became known that the secure email service Snowden relied on was the small privacy-centric provider Lavabit. Now, Lavabit’s founder Ladar Levison has decided to shutter the service, though he’s not allowed to say exactly what influenced his decision:
I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot.
Instead of being ordered to spy on some of his users–requests that he cannot talk about, as a related Guardian report points out–Levison has simply shut Lavabit down. He’s preparing to fight for his company though, and has begun the paperwork to put a case before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Meanwhile Silent Circle, another privacy-centric communications service that promises end-to-end encryption, has also decided to simply cease operations. The site says it hasn’t received any sort of legal threat or request, but it’s certain the government would soon approach it because of “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” that use its service. It’s “seen the writing on the wall” with the Snowden case and the end of Lavabit, and has preempted demands to spy on its users.