Lavabit owner Ladar Levison told RT that he had no choice but to close his email service because the FBI, in pursuit of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, forced him into an ethical dilemma by demanding he hand over customers’ personal data.
RT: The FBI demanded you hand over encryption codes to collect data from a specific account that is not named in the documents. What was your initial response?
Ladar Levison: That’s actually not correct. What they demanded were the SSL keys that were protecting all the data coming in and out of my network for all of my users, and that’s what I had an issue with. I’ve said before that I took the stance that I did not to try and protect a single person but because I was concerned about the invasion and the sacrificing of everyone’s privacy rights that were accessing my system.
RT: We were led to believe that you had been threatened to be charged with criminal content if you did not comply. Do you feel those threats would have eventually become reality if you didn’t follow suit?
LL: Oh, I know they would. In fact they went on to charge me $5,000 a day for every day that I didn’t turn over those keys, which is why I was eventually forced to hand them over. Given the difficult choice of remaining silent about what I thought was a grave injustice or taking, like you said, the lesser of two evils and shutting down the service. I just wasn’t comfortable knowing that they were examining all the data that was coming in and out of my network without any kind of transparency or auditing by myself to ensure that they were only collecting the information they were legally authorized to and continuing to run the service with that knowledge. So I made the only decision I felt was appropriate. In terms of being arrested, I think the only reason they didn’t is because if they had the system would have had nobody to maintain it. That’s one of the advantages of being a small business owner, you wear many hats.
- RT – US Govt Does Not See Implications Of Its Investigation Techniques – Lavabit Founder – 5 October 2013 (lucas2012infos.wordpress.com)
- Lavabit Defied FBI Demands to Turn Over Crypto Keys, Documents Show (wired.com)
- Bloxx White Paper on HTTPS Content Inspection Highlights “Blind Spots” in SSL-Encrypted Web Traffic (prweb.com)