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Encryption Communications Government Privacy United States

Why Lavabit Shut Down 304

An anonymous reader writes "Ladar Levison, founder of the encrypted email service Lavabit that shut down last year because of friction with U.S. government data requests, has an article at The Guardian where he explains the whole story. He writes, 'My legal saga started last summer with a knock at the door, behind which stood two federal agents ready to to serve me with a court order requiring the installation of surveillance equipment on my company's network. ... I had no choice but to consent to the installation of their device, which would hand the U.S. government access to all of the messages – to and from all of my customers – as they traveled between their email accounts other providers on the Internet. But that wasn't enough. The federal agents then claimed that their court order required me to surrender my company's private encryption keys, and I balked. What they said they needed were customer passwords – which were sent securely – so that they could access the plain-text versions of messages from customers using my company's encrypted storage feature. (The government would later claim they only made this demand because of my "noncompliance".) ... What ensued was a flurry of legal proceedings that would last 38 days, ending not only my startup but also destroying, bit by bit, the very principle upon which I founded it – that we all have a right to personal privacy.'"
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Why Lavabit Shut Down

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  • by Jmc23 ( 2353706 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @06:47PM (#47051743) Journal
    Where freedom refers to the the government being free to fuck you over as much as they want!
  • Paging Oslo (Score:3, Funny)

    by oldhack ( 1037484 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @06:49PM (#47051761)
    Give Obama another nobel.
  • Tremendous Respect (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Phrogman ( 80473 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @06:57PM (#47051857) Homepage

    for this guy who was willing to shut down his business rather than betray his principles and his customers. Note that the government doesn't appear to have wanted the passwords and encryption keys for specific individuals, they wanted the whole fucking lot.

    I guess "Don't Tread on Me!" has been transformed to "Go Ahead and Trample Me!" :P

    • Hear, hear...integrity. A willingness to stick to his principles no matter the cost, so admirable.

  • by TFoo ( 678732 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:11PM (#47051961)
    I think this is an important article because he does a good job of showing how the govt bullies people around -- and illuminating precisely why governmental power NEEDS checks and balances, like a functioning (not rubber-stamp) court and warrant system.
  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:20PM (#47052027) Journal
    You could change a few words in this story and make it about something that happened in China or Soviet Russia or any other oppressive nation on Earth, past or present, and it would be plausible.

    I've said it before: The United States that I thought I grew up in? It wasn't real; it was a fantasy, a lie. THIS is the reality, and it's a goddamned depressing one. 'Secure in your person and papers', indeed. When was the last time those words actually meant something? Did they ever mean anything?
    • by log0n ( 18224 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:40PM (#47052219)

      Completely agree. I'll quote myself for no other reason than I just 90sec ago stated the same thing earlier and you completely encapsulated how I feel. I have a feeling that there are quite a lot of us like this.

      "We expect it from China because they are [more or less] (not us, so therefore) a potential enemy, like Russia, like latest Islamatyrant, blah blah.

      (going US centric) We were raised to believe that the US was better than what we're finding out it's doing. We were taught to believe we are a shining beacon of freedom, democracy, that our way is the best way - or at least it's the best way done so far - because look at all of the failings we see around us.. we take the moral highground making us better than the tyrants who do the stuff that we despise, etc.

      There are a lot of Snowdens out there.. not necessarily in what power or knowledge we have, but that those of us that feel everything instilled in us about our nation's greatness is turning out to be complete bullshit."

    • by Xyrus ( 755017 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @01:50AM (#47054013) Journal

      We all live in prisons. It's just that ours has better marketing. :)

    • Well d'oh! Secret court, man - what more do you need to see there's something rotten in the land of freedom? And even though it has been proven how evil this thing is - for example by the 2013 top-secret order for an all-metadata feed from VBNS to NSA - it still exists! The way you've allowed all kinds of extreme measures to be implemented out of fear of terrorists really reminds me of something in our history here in the EU. Just replace terrorists with jews and communists... but don't worry, you are bound
  • Is there even any good encrypted email providers left?
    • Is there even any good encrypted email providers left?

      By "good", you mean "compliant with FISA court orders for installation of monitoring equipment", right?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I violated the Prime Directive and read TFA, which, as an American, I found horrifying. For the first time that I can remember, I was inspired to contact my Congresscritters. If you're a citizen, please read the article, and then contact your senator/representatives and tell them this has to stop.

  • Say no, scram the company, and have your day in court. You didn't have to cave like a pussy.

  • by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @01:46AM (#47054003)
    The statement is that FBI knocked on his door and asked him to let them install "survellance equipment" on his servers. What "surveillance equipment" would that be? Just curious - what kind of equipment could these guys carry with them, that could be installed and used for surveillance?

No extensible language will be universal. -- T. Cheatham