Lavabit Shuts Down Over U.S. Spying Policies

Edward Snowden’s email provider Lavabit announced it was closing its doors over the United States’ surveillance policies last week.

In a statement on the company’s web site, founder Ladar Levison said, “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.”

Lavabit apparently turned down a U.S. government court order to cooperate in surveillance on its customers by allowing some form of access to the encrypted messages on its servers.

Levison says he plans to appeal the government’s request from him in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court and has asked supporters to donate to his legal fund. As of Saturday morning, Lavabit’s legal defense fund is closing in on $90,000, according to Forbes.com.

“If you knew what I knew about email, you might not use it either,” he added.  Estimates say Levison could be walking away from up to $100,000 a year in annual revenue by closing the service.

Levison adds, “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.”

Levison’s concern is shared by many in the tech industry as well as U.S. cloud computing companies, who reported last week they could lose billions in revenue to Europe and other countries over U.S. data collection techniques.

Following Levison’s decision, another encrypted email service, SilentCircle, preemptively decided to shut down, “to prevent spying.”

While the firm will continue with its Silent Phone and Silent Text, which are “end-to-end secure,” they company says it can’t make that guarantee with Silent Mail, a product they’ve been discussing how to address for sometime.

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