Lavabit, the more-secure e-mail service that Edward Snowden -- among others -- used, has abruptly shut down. From the message on their homepage:
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. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot....
This experience has taught me one very important lesson: 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 United States.
In case something happens to the homepage, the full message is recorded here.
Also yesterday, Silent Circle shut down its email service:
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.
This illustrates the difference between a business owned by a person, and a public corporation owned by shareholders. Ladar Levison can decide to shutter Lavabit -- a move that will personally cost him money -- because he believes it's the right thing to do. I applaud that decision, but it's one he's only able to make because he doesn't have to answer to public shareholders. Could you imagine what would happen if Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page decided to shut down Facebook or Google rather than answer National Security Letters? They couldn't. They would be fired.
When the small companies can no longer operate, it's another step in the consolidation of the surveillance society.