Describing the process of shutting down Lavabit as akin to “putting a beloved pet to sleep,” the site's founder Ladar Levison, has spoken out in an interview with WeAreChange, about what his site was, what his ethical reasoning for its shutdown were and what potential his decision has for the future of online privacy.
Mr Levison has been hailed by many as a hero for his actions, which saw him defy a government order to hand over the service's SSL key, giving the authorities access to NSA leaker Edward Snowden's emails, as well as those of every other site user's. He did this because he felt the order was unconstitutional and morally wrong, but there were some personal reasons too. The stress of government weight on his shoulders was giving him sleep issues and near constant anxiety.
Clearly some of that is ongoing, as his legal troubles are perhaps just beginning.[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6zfCujXfJA']
When asked whether there were any repurcussions for his actions, Levison was coy and said simply that he believes the government hadn't pursued legal action against him before the service was shutdown, because they were worried he would do just that. He also alluded that the authorities were not pleased with his open letter to the community, which addressed some of what was happening.
Levison also defended Facebook, Google and others, when the interviewer claiemd they were getting paid to supply user information to the authorities, suggesting instead, that they were fighting battles similar to his, but that they weren't able to talk about the struggles because of how, “secretive everything is,” alluding to government gag orders.
“These companies are challenging the government's right to this information, the trouble is they're losing and they're losing these fights in secret,” he said. “They're being forced to collaborate, much the same as I was being forced to collaborate…”, “because of the secrecy involved, the public doesn't know enough to object.”
He goes on to allude that if people knew more, they wouldn't be keen on what the government was doing and would probably stand up to it. However, he's thankful that we're at a stage that people understand his decision and perhaps, we're edging towards a more public debate on whether the government should have access to our data.
There's progress, but it's slow.
KitGuru Says: Mr Levison made a brave decision shutting down his site and livelihood and it's a shame that he's clearly still nervous about his current legal position. If you want to donate to his legal fund, head here to contribute: