Two secure e-mail providers decided to suspend operations, informs the Washington Post. One of them is Lavabit, used by Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker, now under asylum in Russia, and the other is “Silent Circle“.
According to the Washington Post, Silent Circle offers a suite of secure communications tools to customers in 126 countries. “The chat and voice services employ “end-to-end” encryption, which means that the company itself does not have the capability to unscramble customers’ communications and turn them over to the government. But e-mail services need to interoperate with other e-mail providers. That makes end-to-end encryption impractical and creates a danger that the company could be compelled to hand over information to the government”, explains the Washington Post. This is why the company decided to cancel only its e-mail services.
Lavabit didn’t say exactly why is suspending its activities but the Post deduces from a company’s statement that the investigation about Snowden and the fact that he had an e-mail account with them “might be at issue”.
With all this Snowden – NSA scandal we have learned something we already knew: the e-mail and the Internet is not a safe environment. Is a public space, more or less accessible to some people depending of the services you use or the knowledge you have. Only now we know something more about who is watching and why.
But we don’t know all about that. There were news about surveillance programs the UK and Germany nobody is talking about any more. Who knows what’s happening in countries where there is more strict control over communications because of their lack of freedom like China, for instance. (At least in these countries people are aware of the situation, some would say). There are also countries with known active spy agencies like Israel or Russia, and we don’t know what they are doing.
We are witnessing the Internet version of the old clash between the right of privacy and national security. The problem with the US national security is that involves the whole world, so they feel entitled to spy on citizens of a wide range of countries, and they have the means, with the leading Internet industry in its territory to use the technology to do it.
All illusions about privacy in communications are gone. To get private better go face to face and not through the cell phone or the Internet.