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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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  • 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

  • by uCallHimDrJ0NES ( 2546640 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:12PM (#47051971)

    The US Government is a corporate controlled criminal & terrorist network and your pathetic attempt to point fingers elsewhere will not change that.

    All power corrupts, I'm not claiming exception, and you're a pathetic anonymous coward.

  • by _merlin ( 160982 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:31PM (#47052125) Homepage Journal

    The difference is that only "enlightened western democracies" are so fucking hypocritical about it. The USA is the worst offender in this regard. They keep carrying on about freedom and liberty and other bullshit while implementing things like this, waging illegal wars, and trying to force their ideology onto the world. It's the hypocrisy more than the actual actions.

  • Re:Why not leave? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:41PM (#47052235)

    The third amendment forbids quartering of troops in peacetime without consent. I'd argue that the there is no distinction between monitoring equipment and troops. Troops don't have to be human. We may one day have a droid army, so is the government free to post one in each business to monitor its activity?

  • by rev0lt ( 1950662 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @09:09PM (#47052873)

    A Chinese and Russian "Snowden" would have quickly disappeared with nobody knowing or caring.

    Or not. That's why you have both chinese and russian dissidents. And USA is the country that went after Assange as a 'traitor', regardless of his nationality. From the other side of the pond, USA does look like a police state straight out of 1984 - not only because of the huge levels of incompetence while monitoring people, but also because of what you just said. The level of brainwash that takes for someone to say "my democratic system is better" when its not actually democratic NOR pluralist is an indoctrinator's dream come true. Have a good look at the Roman empire, and why it has fallen. History has a tendency to repeat itself.

  • Re:Why not leave? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sabriel ( 134364 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @09:36PM (#47053041)

    Given the stakes that would be required to just get to the point where you're making that argument in front of a federal judge, I'd hope that judge would have more intelligence than to respond in the manner you suggest.

    Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) included the Third in its majority decision as implying a belief that a home should be free from agents of the state, so precedent does exist. And in this modern age where agents of the state can be "present" in your homes 24/7 via electronic means, what exactly does "quartered" now encompass?

  • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @09:41PM (#47053065) Homepage Journal

    You don't shop much do you? Do you have any idea how hard it is to find any household items not made in China?

    I didn't find it hard at all in my household (in a western suburb of Boston). I easily found items manufactured in places like Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and even Japan. Oh, and a couple of items from Scandinavia, too. Not much made in the US, though.

    Actually, my wife makes a lot of her own clothes, partly as a hobby, but mostly out of disappointment about the crap sold in local clothing stores. She has been complaining about the slow loss of the local fabric stores. Buying online doesn't work well, because you can't feel the material before ordering it. And most of her favorite fabrics do come from outside the US, though I don't think many are from China. But the "manufacturing" is done very locally, upstairs. ;-)

  • by xfizik ( 3491039 ) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @09:49PM (#47053103)
    You are really not better. You are much worse because in addition to violating human rights, your own laws and constitution, you Americans also have the guts to chastise everybody else for doing the very same things (just on a smaller scale). You are the pinnacle of hypocrisy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @09:49PM (#47053105)

    If he lived in one of the nordic countries? yes, It's the last bastion of freedom on this planet.
    Funny how the countries filled with the ancestors of the Vikings are the ones that are not filled to the brim with corrupt scumbag assholes hell bent on controlling it's people.

  • Re:Why not leave? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SlovakWakko ( 1025878 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @01:23AM (#47053945)
    I can imagine operating Lavabit-type of service in some European country. EU's grip on the internet is much weaker than that of the NSA, and recent efforts towards strengthening online privacy give me the reason to believe that it would be difficult to actually shut down such a service. Provisions for obtaining private data through a court order exist also in the EU so there is a legal way for the government to go after criminals who would use it, and with the recent revelations of how thoroughly has the EU been penetrated by NSA (literally as well as figuratively), spinning it as moving from the no-longer-free USA to the still-free EU would also help to protect the service - should anyone try to lay a heavy hand on the service, I think that it would quickly escalate into a discussion in the European Parliament and a lot of scathing titles in big newspapers. Other indications - for example how big are current EU research grant calls in ICT on online privacy, security and trust - also make me believe that Lavabit could work here. So don't hesitate, come here and be free again, guys ;) Also, I don't think that the MU case is pertinent here, as it happened in a US colony.
  • 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?
  • by Askmum ( 1038780 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @02:55AM (#47054189)
    There is a difference between spying on your citizens and ordering businesses to help you spy on citizens and in the process sue them, deprive them of justice and generally treat them like they are Bin Laden incarnated.
    I'm sure there are not a whole lot of countries that would go that far. Maybe countries like North Korea, Cuba and yes, the USA.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982