Lavabit Closes to Protect Users

A few days ago Lavabit closed down their secure email service in response to a request from the United States government that would have jeopardized the privacy of it’s users.  In Mr. Levison’s words “I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.”.  What might this mean to VPN services in the future?


We respect and appreciate Mr. Levison’s decision to shut down and seek justice in the US court system rather than risk his users privacy.  You can learn more about the situation on the site.  Along with this article from Techdirt.  We’ll post the full message from their site at the bottom of this post.

The situation at Lavabit is far from clear.  Reports say that Snowden was using Lavabit for secure email.  Beyond that we know that the owner, Mr. Levison, has complied with past court orders to provide customers messages to the authorities.  This time around though it appears the request went beyond that.  We can only speculate since Mr Levison isn’t allowed to discuss the topic.  I can only imagine how frustrating that must be.

Stepping back from the current news at Lavabit made us think about the future implications for VPN services in the United States.  Not only those that are physically headquartered there but also any VPN provider with servers in the U. S.  How might the actions of the government impact the privacy of VPN users?  I think it would be naive to think this is just a U. S. issue.  Their are lots of parties more than happy to interfere with online privacy.

What’s the answer?  Do you find a VPN service in Iceland or some other so-called safe haven?  Even if you do they may have servers and logs in other countries.  Will they take action to protect their users?  These are questions that will become increasingly important.  We trust the crypto gurus can continue to provide better privacy tools but these other issues will still need to be addressed to ensure our privacy isn’t stolen.

As mentioned above here is the full statement from the Lavabit site:

My Fellow Users,

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

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.

Ladar Levison
Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC

Defending the constitution is expensive! Help us by donating to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund here.

Visit to learn more about online privacy.  Follow us @VPNSP for the latest VPN news and offers.