The US government "fatally undermined" Lavabit, the secure email service used by whistleblower
"Lavabit's business was predicated on offering a secure email service, and no company could possible tell its clients that it offers a secure service if its keys have been handed over to the government," Crump said.
technology/2013/aug/08/lavabit-email-shut-down-edward-snowden">Lavabit closed its service in August after the US authorities demanded he hand over the encryption keys for its entire service – a move Levison said would have compromised the personal details of all his 40,000 clients.
Levison had previously offered the
Lavabit gave up the encryption keys after the government obtained court orders — including a grand jury subpoena and a stored communications act -and an authorized search warrant. The court denied Lavabit's motion to quash the warrants, and when the company failed to do so by the stipulated deadline, the court held Lavabit in contempt.
"The district court's contempt holding should be reversed, because the underlying orders requiring Lavabit to disclose its private keys imposed an unreasonable burden on the company. Although innocent third parties have a duty to assist law enforcement agents in their investigations, they also have a right not to be compelled "to render assistance without limitation regardless of the burden involved,"
Crump said encryption services were a fundamental part of the internet. "Encryption has been mischaracterised by some people," she said. "Far from being the domain of criminals, encryption is a valuable tool used by everyone on the internet."
Lavabit was under no legal obligation to design a system that would give the government easy access to its clients' information, the
The government had won court-ordered access to accounts on Lavabit rival Hushmail.
Hushmail's court-ordered co-operation triggered "a barrage of negative publicity after information about its surveillance assistance appeared in court documents," the
"Whereas the government required Hushmail to provide only particular users' data, Lavabit faced a demand for the private encryption keys protecting all of its users' data, and would likely have fared much worse."
Lavabit is currently fighting its contempt charges and has filed briefs arguing that the US investigation violated its constitutional fourth amendment right to protection from unreasonable searches. The company has set up a legal fund to help with the costs that has so far raised
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