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Lavabit: A Profile in Corporate Principles and Personal Courage

By       Message Alfredo Lopez     Permalink
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For those tempted to view this as "one of a kind", consider that hours after the Lavabit story hit, Silent Circle (another privacy-protecting provider) announced it was shutting down its email service. "We see the writing the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now," Silent Circle's statement read. "We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now."

The most effective form of repression is getting people to react to it before it happens. We can only wonder which other providers will follow.

A question now arises. Is this, in fact, the best way to handle this kind of situation? Were there alternatives available to Lavabit? Was there a way to make sure Lavabit and Levison didn't feel totally alone? That discussion will now undoubtedly ensue and it's one we should all follow and participate in. It's a tactical question for the entire progressive movement because encrypted email is the best way for our movement to communicate. It frustrates surveillance, resists easy reading by unintended readers and allows us to exercise our Fourth Amendment right to privacy in communication: a pillar of any organizing and movement-building.

No matter the opinions to be expressed, one thing must always be kept clear. We can have this discussion because Ladar Levison, faced with an excruciating choice, made a principled decision: he built an email provider to protect privacy and when it could no longer do that he refused to violate its purpose and he shut it down. Compare that principled, selfless response to the "come and get it" responses of so many corporate providers.
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Alfredo Lopez is a member of the This Can't Be Happening on-line publication collective where he covers technology and Co-Chair of the Leadership Committee of May First/People Link.

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