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8/20/2013
02:58 PM
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Groklaw Shuts Down, Cites Government Surveillance

Website founder plans "to get off of the Internet to the degree it's possible" due to the absence of online privacy.

Groklaw, a respected legal analysis website, ceased publication on Tuesday out of concern over unavoidable government surveillance on the Internet.

The website shutdown comes just weeks after two providers of secure email, Lavabit and Silent Circle, opted to discontinue their services. Lavabit founder Ladar Levison did so to avoid becoming "complicit in crimes against the American people," presumably a reference to a U.S. government demand for customer data and an accompanying gag order. Silent Circle, aware of Lavabit's shutdown, preemptively shut down its Silent Mail service, under the belief that the company could not provide the promised security in the current legal climate.

The problem is that email is fundamentally insecure and cannot be kept private in the face of sweeping government surveillance and legal process, despite supposed constitutional protections.

[ Will Google Glass help government spy on citizens? Read Google Glass To Arm Police, Firefighters. ]

Citing LavaBit founder Ladar Levison's observation that if we knew what he knew about email, we wouldn't use it either, Groklaw founder and editor Pamela Jones said she cannot continue to operate her community-based website, which often relies on confidential tips, without some degree of email privacy.

"There is now no shield from forced exposure," said Jones, who contends constant surveillance makes it impossible to be fully human.

As if to demonstrate the irresistibility of government demands, Jones's decision came shortly after the editor of The Guardian revealed that in the past month British security officials demanded and carried out the destruction of hard drives containing data provided to the paper by whistleblower Edward Snowden. It also followed reports that David Miranda, partner of reporter Glenn Greenwald, who helped publish information revealed by Snowden, was detained for nine hours under U.K. terrorism laws and had his electronic devices seized.

In a tweet, Privacy International remarked that the closure of Groklaw "demonstrates how central the right to privacy is to free expression" and that the mere threat of surveillance is enough to inhibit discourse through self-censorship.

Surveillance has an additional cost: It drives businesses away from the United States. The Information Technology and Innovation Institute, a technology think tank, estimates that U.S. cloud service providers, unable to assure privacy, could lose between $22 billion and $35 billion to competitors in Europe over the next three years.

To understand how that might happen, look no further than Jones' recommendation for those who cannot give up online life entirely. "If you have to stay on the Internet, my research indicates that the short term safety from surveillance, to the degree that is even possible, is to use a service like Kolab for email, which is located in Switzerland, and hence is under different laws than the U.S., laws which attempt to afford more privacy to citizens," she wrote.

Given the extent to which U.S. authorities have been able to force cooperation from Swiss banking officials, it would probably be unwise to assume there's much security for data anywhere.

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enazster
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enazster,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/21/2013 | 12:07:25 AM
re: Groklaw Shuts Down, Cites Government Surveillance
when I see phrases like"...crimes against the American people" I start wondering how objective the article is. This is clearly the kind of thing that is said by someone that wants to break the law without getting caught.
dbtinc
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dbtinc,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/21/2013 | 1:12:05 PM
re: Groklaw Shuts Down, Cites Government Surveillance
I'm sure they said something similar to that in Germany in 1932 ... wake up to the fact that the government has become way too intrusive in your private affairs and all in the name of public "security." You are witnessing the birth of the American 4th Reich.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/21/2013 | 4:26:10 PM
re: Groklaw Shuts Down, Cites Government Surveillance
Since all governments with the technology do this, it's ridiculous to believe that moving to providers elsewhere will make any difference. I like that Snowden stated, when he arrived in Russia that he was now in a real democracy. This just goes to show how naive these people really are.

We all know just how insecure e-mail is. We've been to,d this since the beginning. I don't see any difference now. If the government wants to get the info it always could. This is just something we have to get used to. This is all in response to terrorism since 9/11. We have to decide whether we want security or privacy. Some people will choose security, and others will choose privacy.

But there's already a movement in Congress to limit this. We'll see how that goes.

We can see how many people feel by the response to the Boston Marathon bombers this year. People were asking why they weren't caught before, what with all the phone tapping the NSA is supposedly doing. The truth is that they do t do what would be required for this. No recording, or listening g to phone conversations, unless they already have suspicions. And as we saw there, even when they do have suspicions of someone, they miss most of the info.

The same thing is happening with e-mail. Almost none of it will ever be seen.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/21/2013 | 4:27:03 PM
re: Groklaw Shuts Down, Cites Government Surveillance
Good for you. Keep thinking that way. You obviously don't really believe it, or you wouldn't have posted that in the first place.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Moderator
8/21/2013 | 4:57:41 PM
re: Groklaw Shuts Down, Cites Government Surveillance
It's a reference to alleged violations of the US Constitution, specifically the First and Fourth Amendments.
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/21/2013 | 5:30:03 PM
re: Groklaw Shuts Down, Cites Government Surveillance
I think the point is that it's difficult to have an intelligent conversation about government surveillance/spying activities when the Nazi/Third Reich card is pulled.
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