EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Will the Next Swiss Banks Be Email Service Providers?

Stories about electronic data (social media posts, email and text messaging) are a constant theme in recent news. There are usually two legal angles in these stories:  (1) the government's ability to access the data, and (2) its use in litigation/admissibiliy in court.

While I usually focus on the second question on this blog, I couldn't resist posting about a fascinating story emerging on the first question that doesn't seem to have gotten much coverage.  According to the Times, two secure email service providers Lavabit and Silent Circle “essentially committed suicide” rather than respond to government requests to turn over customer data.  Reading between the lines it looks like Silent Circle “destroyed” their email servers rather than respond to future government requests for customer data.  Lavabit has apparently suspended operations and is contemplating legal action, but it is less clear that it actually destroyed existing files -- a wise hint of caution if it faces a pending legal request.  Here is a cryptic note from its founder on its web site. (The Guardian notes that Lavabit previously complied “with a warrant concerning a child pornography suspect in Maryland.”)

Lavabit is known for being the email service of Edward Snowden (probably the best endorsement an encrypted email service could obtain), apparently through the so-obvious-it-can’t-be-real email address:  edsnowden@lavabit.com  

Lavabit’s founder urges those in search of privacy to use non-US based email providers, which brings me to the title of the post:  Will we see the emergence of Swiss-bank-like offshore email providers in the wake of these developments?

As an aside, I thought I would announce EvidenceProf Blog's new complaints policy.  All complaints regarding postings on the site should be directed to:  edsnowden@lavabit.com



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