websites and email services shutting down because of NSA spying
The secure email service Lavabit shut its doors stating that the U.S. government forced them to either commit “crimes against the American people” or close their business. In a letter to their users, the CEO of Lavabit wrote: “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. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.” Lavabit’s owner was threatened with jail for shutting down the site rather than keeping it open and spying on the customers.
Another Texas-based secure server Silent Circle made a draconian decision: to obliterate all of its customers’ stored e-mail. The founder of Silent Circle was the guy who invented PGP (pretty good privacy) back in the 90s — the very first encryption method for email, bank transfers, online sales etc.
Now the award-winning site Groklaw (essentially the Internet’s Legal bible) has announced they will no longer continue the site due to NSA spying. In her farewell post, Pamela Jones explained that while she did not want to shut down her site, she felt there was “no shield from forced exposure.” The threat of the NSA reading her and her contributors’ emails left her with no safe way to run her site she said. She has switched her email to a Swiss company on the assumption that she’ll get her privacy back that way since companies there are not subject to U.S. law. (That is actually an incorrect assumption because 1) the govt can spy on any emails coming into or out of the U.S. regardless of provider go-along and 2) they can read any email she sends to someone who has a U.S. account, just on the receiving rather than originating end). She further intends to get off the internet as much as she possibly can.
Expect more sites to make similar decisions. Chilling effect is here and now.