An award-winning legal and technology news site announced on Tuesday that it is shutting down over fears of email surveillance.
In her final post entitled "Forced Exposure," Groklaw founder Pamela Jones (PJ) writes, "The owner of Lavabit tells us that he's stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we'd stop too. There is no way to do Groklaw without email. Therein lies the conundrum." She adds that "ensuring privacy online is impossible."
Less than two weeks ago, encrypted email service providers Lavabit, whose services were reportedly used by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and Silent Circle announced they were shuttering their email services rather than be forced to hand over customer data to the U.S. government.
Explaining why "this is the last Groklaw article," Jones writes:
[I]magine how I feel now, imagining as I must what kind of world we are living in if the governments of the world think total surveillance is an appropriate thing?
I know. It may not even be about that. But what if it is? Do we even know? I don't know. What I do know is it's not possible to be fully human if you are being surveilled 24/7.
[. . .]
There is now no shield from forced exposure. [...] 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.
So. There we are. 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.
"They tell us that if you send or receive an email from outside the US, it will be read. If it's encrypted, they keep it for five years, presumably in the hopes of tech advancing to be able to decrypt it against your will and without your knowledge," Jones wrote. But Silent Circle's Technical Operations Manager Louis Kowolowski explained in a blog post on Friday how even encrypted email is still vulnerable because metadata is still retrievable.
If your goal is to not have metadata leakage in your otherwise secure communications, you may wish to avoid email altogether. Email leaks the information about who is communicating, and how often. This information may be just as damaging as the content of the email.
[E]mail security has become more complex than it used to be. In the past, securing the body of the message was sufficient. The tools and techniques used for snooping were not on a large enough scale to allow the metadata to be useful. With the tapping of backbone internet providers, interested parties can now see all traffic on the internet. The days where it was possible for two people to have a truly private conversation over email, if they ever existed, are long over.
* * *
— PrivacyInternational (@privacyint) August 20, 2013