Today, another secure email provider, Lavabit, shut down their system lest they “be complicit in crimes against the American people.” We see the writing the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now. We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now.
I signed up for Silent Circle a little while back, and added that email address to the contact page of this site. In doing so I simply stated that it was “slightly more secure email” as it’s not really a secure option. Interestingly, among commenters that had never contacted me before, they chose to use the Silent Circle email 3 to 1.
I respect why Lavabit shut down, they were facing a court order that they felt they could not morally comply with — in an effort to keep users safe they stopped the service. That makes sense, but they likely can’t destroy the data they have, unless they want to go to prison for destroying evidence — they will have to fight for that. (I am guessing.)
Silent Circle though is a different story, they did this preemptively before a court order came to them. Thus, as The New York Times reports, they were able to destroy their email servers:
Mike Janke, Silent Circle’s chief executive, said in a telephone interview late Thursday that his company had destroyed its server. “Gone. Can’t get it back. Nobody can,” he said. “We thought it was better to take flak from customers than be forced to turn it over.”
The shitty part about both of these services going down is that the data is gone too. Users didn’t have a chance to migrate because if either company gave them chance they would have tipped their hand and the government would have been able to legally compel them not to shut down (let alone destroy data). These services had to end abruptly to protect their users. No way around that.
Still, I paid for a year of service for Silent Circle, and a large part of that was for the email. I’ve asked for a partial refund to reflect the partial (and immediate) closure of the service that Silent Circle charged me for, and am concerned that these refunds weren’t automatic as part of the announcement — that doesn’t seem very consumer friendly.