2 email providers shut down amid Snowden drama

Lavabit and Silent Circle were concerned about being forced to give the US government customer data.

By Kim Peterson Aug 9, 2013 3:51PM
Edward Snowden (© The Guardian via Getty Images)Two providers of secure, encrypted email have shut down this week, caught up in the government's ongoing investigation into former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Lavabit, reportedly the service Snowden used to invite people to a press conference in Moscow on July 12, went dark on Thursday, PCWorld reports. Another service, Silent Circle, shuttered hours later.

It's not clear why Lavabit is shutting down, but the Texas company apparently has been fighting a secret federal court battle. Lavabit launched nine years ago and offered highly secure email protected by advanced encryption.

Lavabit's owner, Ladar Levison, said on his website that he was forced to either shut down the service or "become complicit in crimes against the American people."

He hinted at a legal case underway, and said his company is planning to take its case to a federal appeals court. If the court rules in his favor, he said, he can bring Lavabit back.

Then he dropped this bomb:
This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.
Silent Circle, based in Maryland, also shut its email service and destroyed its server. "Gone. Can't get it back. Nobody can," CEO Mike Janke told The New York Times. "We thought it was better to take flak from customers than be forced to turn it over."

Silent Circle made the extraordinary decision to destroy its server even though it had not received any request for information from the government.

"We see the writing the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now," the company wrote on its blog about its email service. "It is always better to be safe than sorry, and with your safety we decided that the worst decision is always no decision."

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