"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. 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."
Ladar Levison, Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC, in an open letter to users.
Background: Lavabit is an encrypted email service that was reportedly used by Edward Snowden, among 350,000 other customers. The Guardian reports that the closure occurred after the company rejected “a court order for cooperation with the US government to participate in surveillance on its customers.”
Related: Lavabit isn’t alone. Silent Circle, a company that creates encrypted communication applications for text, phone and video, is preemptively shutting down its email service. In a notice to its customers, the company writes:
Silent Mail has similar security guarantees to other secure email systems, and with full disclosure, we thought it would be valuable.
However, we have reconsidered this position. We’ve been thinking about this for some time, whether it was a good idea at all. 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.
Welcome to surveillance.
"But this “commitment” has been so thoroughly forsaken one is forced to consider whether it was ever sincere. It has been so thoroughly forsaken one wonders whether to laugh or cry. What kind of message are we sending about the viability these democratic ideals—about openness, transparency, public participation, public collaboration? How hollow must American exhortations to democracy sound to foreign ears? Mr Snowden may be responsible for having exposed this hypocrisy, for having betrayed the thug omertà at the heart of America’s domestic democracy-suppression programme, but the hypocrisy is America’s. I’d very much like to know what led Mr Obama to change his mind, to conclude that America is not after all safe for democracy, though I know he’s not about to tell us. The matter is settled. It has been decided, and not by us. We can’t handle the truth."
"Mainly, to say you’re “building” something is to say you’re part of an exceptional breed. It’s an instant signifier that your company isn’t just a company, but a “disruptive” force; that you are ahead of and above companies that were merely “incorporated,” and that you intend to “disrupt”; that your breed of entrepreneurship is more like a duty or a calling than a job choice, and that you’re no stodgy businessperson, but a visionary, a maker, a capitalistic superhero with the incredible powers of “pivoting” and “raising rounds.” You’re someone who is changing things with big ideas and yet, somehow, also with your own two hands."
"To impose order on the changes, we seek refuge, of a kind, in statistics. In my years here, the number of airline passengers nationwide doubled; sales of personal computers and cell phones tripled. The length of the Beijing subway quadrupled. But the longer I stayed, the less those impressed me than the dramas that I could never quantify at all."
"There were instances of kindness from cell bosses who favored him, sometimes for being a poet; respect for the written word is not dead in China."
"It was like, oh my god, I can be so much more productive if I actually let my brain have a little downtime. When I get up in the morning I’m very sharp now. I can do things much faster. I’m much more focused. I feel much fresher. I feel like I used to feel before the Internet was popular."
"Google has petitioned a secret U.S. national security court to relax restrictions on the information the tech giant can disclose about government data requests, claiming such restrictions violate the company’s right to free speech under the First Amendment."