Users of Lavabit, the encrypted e-mail service found themselves locked out in the dark last Thursday when the site shut down without notice. The service used by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden had been around for 10 years and now its users, including founder Ladar Levison are without email.
Replacing the login was simply a message by Levison that read in part, “As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.” The details of WHY were left a mystery. Levison revealed to CNET last week that the move to shut down the service following government pressure was to protect the security of users.
“For me it wasn’t about protecting a single user, but protecting the privacy of all my users. I believe that people have the right to know what their government is doing. I had an issue with me doing what they wanted me to do without them disclosing it.”
Levison also shared his view that there needs to be a more clear definition of protection on the internet, and that the government is abusing its secrecy to hide surveillance methods. “I think that there’s a lot more that will come out, and that needs to come out,” Levison told CNET. Levison believes in his decision to prevent a crime against the American public, even if it means losing his primary source of income.
And just how does the Patriot Act play into all of this? Levison admits it was certainly an influence in the creation Lavabit. When a new user signed up for the service all that was asked for was a name and password. Levison simply did not see the use for collecting info he didn’t need. “Speaking philosophically, I think people who hold other people’s private information and money have an obligation to be more open to the public.” Unfortunately, the government doesn’t exactly embrace this belief.