The Snowden backlash is only just beginning. And so is the resistence. Expect U.S. tech companies that have given the National Security Agency direct access to your data to suffer commercially. How badly, hard to say. Depends on how deep the public outrage. Three of Germany’s biggest Internet services, one of them Deutsche Telekom, announced they’ll encrypt customers’ emails. Unfortunately, their encryption appears to be a bad joke. Here’s Chaos Computer Club release (German).
The U.S. government forced the hand of a small Texas-based email service, It seems clear that Lavabit’s owner, Ladar Levison, shut down rather than agree to grant the government access to the data of customers. Snowden is reported to have been among his users. Levison has set up a legal defense fund and is accepting contributions. He likely received a National Security Letter, a search warrant or a subpoena with a gag order attached. He can’t say but he says he’s preparing an appeal to the 4th Circut.
“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,” The New York Times quoted Levison as saying. I can’t find an image of him online.
The other U.S. email service that preemptively shut down belonged to Silent Circle, a company co-founded by Phil Zimmerman, creator of Pretty Good Privacy encrypted email. It says it wiped the discs containing all that email. The encryption keys were on the servers. Not so with the keys that Silent Circle uses for its text-messaging, video and voice comms services. They are end-to-end secure. The encryption keys are erased when the communcation ends.
Now, which big U.S. tech companies will join the legal challenge in defense of First and Fourth Amendment rights?
Yahoo is the only one known to have challenged a gag order of the type Levison apparently got.
The Internet Archive’s Brewster Kahle, an Internet giant committed to nothing less than providing “universal access to all knowledge,” successfully fought a gag order and is one of the few people who can openly discuss what it’s like to get a National Security Letter. Read here the New Yorker’s interview with him about it.
Meanwhile, more and more people are posting PGP public keys to servers.