Email Services Defy Government Orders, Close Doors in Response to Spying

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At least one tech-focused company is pushing back on U.S. surveillance programs. Lavabit, a Dallas-based email service, shut down its site as way to avoid handing over user data to the government.

In a letter posted on the Lavabit site, owner and operator Ladar Levison said, "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."

Levison added: "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."

In addition to Lavabit, the Washington D.C.-based global encrypted communications service Silent Circle shut down its Silent Mail e-mail service ahead of any orders from the NSA in order to protect its customers.

Silent Circle co-founder and email encryption expert Phil Zimmermann joins us to explain the pressures put on companies to give up data, and why they chose to take such a strong stance.

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