August 20, 2013
Groklaw Website Shuts Down Due To Surveillance Fears
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Blogger Pamela Jones announced today that she’ll be shutting down her tech-leaning legal blog “Groklaw” amidst concerns about government surveillance. What’s more, she also says she’ll be removing herself from the Internet as much as it is possible.
Earlier this month, encrypted email services Lavabit and Silent Circle ended their operations after the former had a run-in with a secret US court, which presumably wanted access to its users’ information. In what she calls the “last Groklaw article,” Jones cites the Lavabit founder and notes that she cannot continue writing for the blog without the use of email.
Days before Lavabit shut down its services, new reports emerged that explained in further detail how much of Americans’ private conversations the government has access to and how they share this information.
“The owner of Lavabit tells us that he's stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we'd stop too,” begins Jones in her last Groklaw blog. “There is no way to do Groklaw without email. Therein lies the conundrum.”
Later, after more explanation, she adds: “The foundation of Groklaw is over. I can't do Groklaw without your input. I was never exaggerating about that when we won awards. It really was a collaborative effort, and there is now no private way, evidently, to collaborate.”
In his blog entry to announce the closing of Lavabit’s encrypted email services, owner Ladar Levinson said he didn’t like the decision he had made, but felt it was the best one. Unfortunately, Levinson was unable to fully explain why he was closing the service, noting that the law prevents him from discussing the details of his court case. It has been revealed, however, that Edward Snowden, the former NSA employee who leaked documents concerning the government’s surveillance programs, had used a Lavabit account to communicate privately with human rights workers and lawyers while on the run from US authorities.
“This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States,” wrote Levinson earlier this month.
Jones notes that if Levinson says no one should trust email, then she will follow his lead. She then quotes a book by Janna Malamud Smith,"Private Matters: In Defense of the Personal Life.” In it, Malamud suggests that total surveillance, the kind of surveillance that Jones believes we are now under constantly, is one of the worst punishments.
“You don't expect a stranger to read your private communications to a friend. And once you know they can, what is there to say? Constricted and distracted. That's it exactly. That's how I feel,” writes Jones.
She also mentions her plans to stay away from the Internet “to the degree it’s possible.” She also suggests readers sign up for an email service located in Switzerland and therefore under different surveillance laws than the US.
At the end of July, The Guardian released even more slides that had been leaked to them by Snowden describing a surveillance program known as Xkeyscore. According to these slides, this program gives the NSA the “widest reaching” collection of data, including emails, online chats, and browsing history of millions of Americans.