Silent Circle, a company offering secure email services in 126 countries, has become the latest corporation to shut down.
UPDATE: Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom has announced plans to create a secure email service to run on a non-U.S.-based server. The announcement was made by Mega’s CEO Vikram Kumar, who said that the decision comes in response to undue U.S. government invasion of user privacy.
“These are acts of ‘Privacy Seppuku’ – honorably and publicly shutting down (“suicide”) rather than being forced to comply with laws and courts intent on violating people’s privacy,” Kumar said in his blog post.
The Megaupload announcement follows the recent closures of Lavabit and Silent Circle — two companies that have stopped their secure email services because of U.S. National Security Agency requests for user information as part of surveillance operations.
Silent Circle, a company offering secure email services in 126 countries, has become the latest corporation to shut down in an effort to maintain customer privacy and avoid government orders to turn over confidential user information.
The Washington Post reports that the move comes hours after Lavabit, another confidential email service provider made the same decision in order to avoid becoming “complicit in crimes against the American people” — a possible reference to government surveillance.
Lavabit, a company with 350,000 users, was reportedly the preferred email service of Edward Snowden, the now infamous National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower who exposed extensive government collection of metadata. Metadata refers to information collected and stored by intelligence agencies without warrants or probable cause for all Americans, including the length of calls, call location and phone numbers.
“There are some very high profile, highly targeted groups of people” among the firm’s customers, says Silent Circle CEO Mike Janke. “We felt we were going to be targeted, without a doubt.”
Silent Circle Founder John Callas wrote that other company services, including, Silent Phone, Silent Text and Silent Eyes, are still “end-to-end secure,” meaning that user information for these services cannot be handed over to the government for intelligence purposes.
“We see the writing the wall [sic], and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now,” the company wrote in a blog post Thursday. “We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now.”
The string of company shutdowns is the latest fallout in the monthslong NSA metadata scandal. Former Booz Allen Hamilton employee Edward Snowden leaked information to The Guardian newspaper in May showing that government intelligence agencies have been collecting material including search histories, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats.
Just how extensive is U.S. spying? The NSA Prism program reportedly allows authorities to tap into user data on common Internet forums used by millions of Americans, like Apple, Google and Facebook.
Since Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA spying programs, civil liberty groups have consistently decried these government practices as an infringement upon a constitutionally protected right that prohibits authorities from carrying out unreasonable searches and seizures.
“Now we know all Americans’ international email is searched and saved, we can see how far the ‘collect it all’ mission has gone,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) writes in a post.
“According to The New York Times, the NSA is searching the content of virtually every email that comes into or goes out of the United States without a warrant. To accomplish this astonishing invasion of Americans’ privacy, the NSA reportedly is making a copy of nearly every international email. It then searches that cloned data, keeping all of the emails containing certain keywords and deleting the rest — all in a matter of seconds.”