Every single day…..nay, every single second of every single day, we continue to write and add material to the web.
That material may be anything, from simple innocent messages, to highly secret, encoded and encrypted data meant for a select few only.
And within those, let’s not deny it, a handful will most definitely be from people, or groups of individuals, who wish to reign terror on innocents….that’s a given.
Aside of those few who wish to cause mayhem and harm to the general law-abiding populations of the world, we are all very happy to place our privacy in the hands of companies whom we know very little about.
The point of this post has come about by the sudden announcement from a company called Lavabit, a firm which offered encrypted email services, based in Texas.
The company itself is nothing special…there are numerous others in the world who offer these services, but the reason why Lavabit has come to the fore is because of its link with the now-disgraced whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
Lavabit has announced that it prefers to close it’s very successful business down, rather than betray some 400,000 users. It chose to shut down in order to avoid complying with apparently secret US court orders which ask it and others like it, to provide government access to it’s user’s content.
Ladar Levinson, the company’s founder made this statement recently:
“(The US directive forced on the company..) a difficult decision…to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly 10 years hard work by shutting down Lavabit….I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to mu 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…..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 US”
What? Can this be true? All our messages, emails, resumes, blogs, web sites and much more, that we have been using since time immemorial…..are all those now in the hands of companies which will use that information against us, if need be? It certainly looks like it, doesn’t it?
The news made Edward Snowden say that he found Lavabit’s stance very inspiring…..and added that others like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple and the rest of the internet titans should also now ask themselves why they too aren’t fighting for the interests of innocent civilians in the same way.
It all sounds increasingly like an Orwellian thing….something that you would normally hear coming from behind the Iron Curtain (if it was there), or North Korea possibly. But surely not the USA, the one place on Earth which we all like to think of as being THE place to be for freedom of expression?
Certainly doesn’t sound like coming from a country and citizens who are free….secret courts that issue secret rulings in favor of the government. It seems incredible that in this day and age, nobody but nobody can see what the USA has become….very, very close to being a totalitarian regime.
The action by Lavabit also led to another company based in the US to announce it’s shutting down…..Silent Circle, which provided secure online communication services, has shut down it’s encrypted email service, even though it had not yet been served with any court order…..Phil Zimmerman, the founder announced “We see the writing on the wall…”
All this commotion has also started big businesses in Europe talking, as there seems to be a growing perception that most, maybe not all, US firms are not to be trusted with the privacy of their customers’ data. It has prompted Germany’s Interior Minister HP Friedrich to say, “Whoever fears their communications are being intercepted in any way, should use services that do not go through American servers”
We all know that the present administration in the USA, together with the telecom and internet giants, are in no way going to be moved by pleas of transparency, accountability and privacy, but perhaps the damage being done to US companies involved in these rulings possibly will….it is said that an amount equalling approximately $35bn will be lost by those companies’ who willingly align themselves to the government’s NSA program….
Meanwhile….there’s us….you and me and Joe Public down the road…where do we stand in all this?
In my considered opinion, I myself would try and watch what I say on a daily basis on the internet…..whether it be on a Facebook account, my several email accounts, blogs, web pages and so on.
But what about all those other services like Linkedin, employment agencies, etc….there are literally millions of people who have uploaded their personal data onto the servers run by those companies….is their data safe? In short, I would be forced to say no…not going by the present rulings.
The bottom line is this…if you haven’t got anything to hide, than nobody can touch you, period. If you are embezzling millions of dollars every year, or are a budding terrorist, or want to destroy the present government and be the next president by force, then you have to watch out.
But there is another, more unsettling, sickly, niggling feeling, like a thorn sticking in your foot, that all my personal data is with predominantly US-based companies….isn’t it possible, therefore, in some way, shape or form, that if they wanted to, any person in a position of power could very easily concoct a false case against me using my data…and I could do zilch about it?
Quite possible indeed…..very possible…..