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Groklaw, the latest casualty of the NSA surveillance scandal


How the NSA scandal has caused three web services to shutdown

By: Matt Smith, Staff Writer

Photography courtesy of: ElectronicFrontierFoundationIt’s been roughly 3 months since Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been conducting mass surveillance, often without a warrant, on American citizens and internationals. The scandal has brought individual privacy, the treatment of whistleblowers, and state legitimacy into national discussion. Most discussions involve debate over whether Snowden is a patriot or traitor and whether or not the NSA is in breach of the Constitution. What isn’t discussed are the websites which have fallen victim to the scandal.

On August 20th, Groklaw, an award-winning legal analysis site, shutdown. The decision was made by Pamela Jones, Groklaw founder, who decided that the website could not function properly if the NSA had the ability to survey their private data.

Jones wrote a long post on the Groklaw website outlining the reasons why the site was shutting down. Jones writes: “the simple truth is, no matter how good the motives might be for collecting and screening everything we say to one another, and no matter how “clean” we all are ourselves from the standpoint of the screeners, I don’t know how to function in such an atmosphere.  I don’t know how to do Groklaw like this.”

[pullquote]No matter how good the motives might be for collecting and screening everything we say to one another, and no matter how “clean” we all are ourselves from the standpoint of the screeners, I don’t know how to function in such an atmosphere. [/pullquote]

Groklaw is not the first, and probably not the last, website to shutdown due to the recent revelations.

Jones actually took advice Lavabit, a website which is considered to be the first to shutdown amidst the NSA scandal.

Jones’s first line in her post reads:

“The owner of Lavabit tells us that he’s stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we’d stop too.”

Lavabit was an e-mail service which was self-touted as ultra secure and private. In wake of the revelations of the NSA spying, founder Ladar Levinson suspended operations and proclaimed that people stop “trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.”

Lavabit’s suspension of operations inspired Jones to shutdown Groklaw and also inspired Michael Janke, CEO of Silent Circle, to shutdown his website.

Silent Circle was a private e-mail service made up of “some of the worlds’ top cryptographers and security people from around the world.” Silent Circle made the announcement on August 9th.

[pullquote]“The owner of Lavabit tells us that he’s stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we’d stop too.”[/pullquote]

In an interview with David Gewirtz, Janke said the NSA needs to take into account “the freedom of speech, the privacy rights of individuals, and the rights of companies to protect their intellectual property.”

Lavabit, Groklaw, and Silent Circle are three websites which had prided themselves on the privacy of each user. These are three websites which have had to suspend operations and abandon hundreds of thousands of users due to the intense surveillance by the NSA. Who knows when the NSA’s surveillance program will stop or if it will ever stop. In the meantime, be careful what you write, Big Brother is watching.

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