Lavabit Shuts Down

Well, for at least the past twenty-four hours, and probably more like forty-eight, I’ve been unable to access my email. I was hoping it would be simply a technical difficulty and from time to time I checked the Lavabit.com website to see if it was backup. As time wore on, I was getting a sinking feeling. I had a hunch, and my hunch was right.

As luck would have it, I was sharing an email provider with Edward Snowden.

Earlier today, this screen went up:

lavabitFew people that I know through this blog use my normal email address at Lavabit. It will probably take me a few days to regroup. In the meantime, if anyone wants to get in touch with me, you’ll have to leave a message in the comments.

It’s especially a drag since I wasn’t even using for the secrecy and encryption or anything like that. I just didn’t feel like giving my entire life over to Google more or less on the principle of the matter. I guess resistance really is futile.

By the way, has anyone tried setting up their own email server?

Update: There’s some more information now from Forbes.

Texas-based Lavabit came into being in 2004 as an alternative to Google’s Gmail, as an email provider that wouldn’t scan users’ email for keywords. Being identified as the provider of choice for the country’s most famous NSA whistleblower led to a flurry of attention for Lavabit, from journalists. and also, apparently, from government investigators. Lavabit founder Ladar Levison announced today that he’s shutting the service down rather than providing information to the government.

Further down, Forbes reporter Kashmir Hill says:

Levison says that he’s under a gag order and thus can’t discuss the government request for information that he has been fighting over the last six weeks. Gag orders like that often come with information requests in national security investigations.

Hill’s assumption is the same as mine. Although her speculation that the government wants Snowden’s emails sounds like a good guess on the surface, it is still simply an assumption. Frankly, my own guess is that they wanted more than that. At this stage, there would be no reason to be secretive about wanting Snowden’s email. Of course, that’s just speculation on my part as well.

If Levison has been fighting this for six weeks as Hill reports, he could have let users know that there was a potential for a shutdown. As it is, he’s given users who don’t have any special reason to use encrypted or private email reason to distrust smaller providers.

Update II: Yet another reason to not completely trust cloud computing. I’ve been using the Thunderbird email client and storing most of my emails on my local computer hard drive. It could have been worse if I hadn’t been doing that.

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