Down But Not Out – Lavabit Owner Now Working on a New Email Service Called Darkmail


For those who don’t know, Lavabit is-or rather used to be, they shut down few months ago-an internet company which provides encrypted email service to their clients. Lavabit shot to fame in the wake of the Edward Snowden PRISM revelations. The company was adversely mentioned whenever Snowden’s name came up because he was their client. Edward Snowden did not use regular email, he used this specialized encrypted paid service for his communication.

When the government decided to go after Snowden, they threw everything they had at him. Lavabit was served with a court order requiring that they hand over the keys to their encryption. Now, the government did not directly mention Snowden but isn’t it obvious that with access to the keys they could look at any of the 400,000+ Lavabit users information? They had Lavabit cornered.

But they had underestimated just how committed Lavabit was to keeping their clients anonymous. The company complied with the court order and handed over the keys, but they shut down the company BEFORE handing over those keys. Effectively, the government had keys to a system which was no longer alive. Of course it was a sad day for internet privacy and anonymity. But it was a proud day too; seeing companies like Lavabit who are committed to keeping their word, even at the risk of a jail term.

Ladar Levison, the founder of Lavabit may have shut down his company but he is back. This week, he announced that he was working with other internet privacy and anonymity minded companies to launch a paid email service called Darkmail. Now, Darkmail will hand over encryption technology to the user so that each individual user has a unique key to his or her emails. This way, not even Darkmail developers have access to the individual’s emails. With Darkmail, a company can submit data to the government, but it would not be of any help since it is user-encrypted. Talk of killing two birds with one stone.

Darkmail, if and when launched, will join the league of other paid internet privacy and anonymity tools like VPN (we always recommend that individuals use VPN when online for anonymity and privacy reasons). It will help boost the efforts that companies like HideMyAss are putting in user anonymity and privacy, further protecting our liberties and freedoms online.