Email services close and destroy data rather than reveal files

August 11, 2013

(Credit: Frederic Guimont/Wikimedia Commons)

Lavabit, a Texas-based service that was reportedly used by Edward J. Snowden, announced the suspension of its service Thursday afternoon to avoid being “complicit in crimes against the American people,” The New York Times reports.

Within hours, a fast-growing Maryland-based start-up called Silent Circle also closed its e-mail service and destroyed its e-mail servers.

In effect, both businesses destroyed their assets — in part or in full — to avoid turning over their customers’ data.

In an effort to address public concern about the government’s surveillance programs, President Obama on Friday announced the creation of a task force to advise the government about how to balance security and privacy. He also said he supported a proposal to change the procedures of the secret court that approves electronic spying under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Bruce Schneier, a cryptographer, applauded Lavabit’s decision, pointing out that its self-destruction was made possible because it had no shareholders to answer to.