Secure email providers shut down citing government pressure - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Secure email providers shut down citing government pressure

Lavabit and Silent Mail abruptly ended their services out of concern of being able to continue offering privacy to their users. (Source: MGN) Lavabit and Silent Mail abruptly ended their services out of concern of being able to continue offering privacy to their users. (Source: MGN)
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(RNN) - Two secure email providers ended their services Friday, implying that the National Security Administration was prying into their customers' accounts.

Lavabit, an encrypted email service used by exiled NSA leaker Edward Snowden, made the announcement Friday, killing email addresses for more than 350,000 users and ending all access to their services. Shortly thereafter, Silent Mail followed suit.

"I have been forced to make a difficult decision: To become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly 10 years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit," said Lavabit owner and operator Ladar Levison in a statement.

Levison claimed he could not discuss what forced his decision because it's not allowed under the law. Nowhere in his statement did he mention NSA, but the organization is strongly implied.

"As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests," Levison said.

It was revealed in mid-July that NSA leaker Edward Snowden had used Lavabit to correspond with human rights organizations and the press.

Lavabit offered privacy protection for its users, including encryption and not using email data for advertising purposes, which is a widely used practice for other providers such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

Soon after Lavabit's announcement, Silent Circle, the company behind Silent Mail, announced they had come to the same decision.

"We see the writing on the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now. We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now," said Silent Circle founder Jon Callas in a statement.

Silent Circle also provides encrypted phone services, Silent Phone and Silent Text, which they say are "end-to-end secure." These and their other services will continue as usual.

These shutdowns come only a week after the New York Times reported that the NSA has the ability to, and actively does, search the content of messages to and from the United States without warrants.

Meanwhile, Levison said the fight over secure email isn't over. He said Lavabit has "started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals."

Levison said a favorable decision would mean the resurrection of Lavabit as an American company, but until then, he is warning others to stay away.

"I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States," he said.

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