Prosecutors [were pursuing Lavabit user] Edward J. Snowden […] Mr. Levison was willing to allow investigators with a court order to tap Mr. Snowden’s e-mail account … But they wanted more, he said: the passwords, encryption keys and computer code that would essentially allow the government untrammeled access to the protected messages of all his customers. That, he said, was too much.
The government didn’t want just Snowden. That was legitimate. Instead, they wanted access to everything on Lavabit.
Now, if the pursuit of Snowden justified secret access to every user of Lavabit, then how much access do you think the government has to Gmail, given that former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden has recently claimed “Gmail is the preferred [email] provider of terrorists worldwide.”
Or… Think about it this way: If the NSA and FBI wanted access to all of Lavabit to go after one Edward Snowden, wouldn’t they want access to all of Google’s 400 million Gmail account to go after a few hundred or even a few thousand terrorists?
Google of course denies they have given government access to everything. I’m not sure what that proves other than that they aren’t stupid.
Lavabit’s owner was “forbidden to discuss his case; held in contempt of court and fined $10,000 for handing over his private encryption keys on paper and not in digital form; and, finally, threatened with arrest for saying too much when he shuttered his business.” And yes, he shuttered his entire business to prevent the government from confiscating the private information of all his customers. Meanwhile, Google rolls over for the federal government 9 out of 10 times, even when the government doesn’t have a warrant.
So, why trust Google? They are deeply embedded in the Obama administration, they work closely with the CIA, NSA, Defense and State Departments, they have the world’s largest user intelligence database, and they are a lot less concerned about your privacy than Ladar Levison of Lavabit was. If you need a reminder, watch this video:
Alternatives like Glenn Beck’s email service are starting to pop up and hopefully will continue to do so. I’m as guilty as anyone of continuing to use a service I don’t trust because our options have been so limited. But I think we are way past time to be looking to alternatives.
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