Chilling Effects

August 20th, 2013

The email service Lavabit recently shut down rather than release all their records to the NSA. Lavabit's mission was to provide private and secure encrypted email services. Following that, a similar service called Silent Circle closed their doors as well. A spokesperson for Silent Circle issued a statement that nothing was truly anonymous, and that if you want privacy, "you may wish to avoid email altogether."

As of today, Pamela Jones has shut down the Groklaw blog for the same reasons.

The issue is twofold. The first problem is that the NSA can get a rubber stamp from a FISA court to collect metadata on electronic communications. Sure, there's a court order involved, but it's from a star chamber. You won't know if you're being monitored.

The second problem is the blanket abuse of National Security Letters. Under Section 505 of the Patriot Act, the FBI can issue a letter to a website owner demanding any sort of information they want on users' communications. The recipient can't discuss the contents or even the existence of the letter with anyone, nor do they have any legal recourse to fight the demand.

They've gone after librarians and phone companies. They've gone after websites. You won't even know if something you read or wrote is under scrutiny. Needless to say, aliases don't do much to shield your identity. Be wary of what you post online. That silly crack about fertilizer and jackboots could get you into more trouble than you can imagine.

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