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Silent Circle, Lavabit Team On New Secure Email Protocol

Dark Mail Alliance aims to create open-source email protocol and architecture for the industry in wake of NSA spying revelations

As the drumbeat of NSA revelations hit a new high yesterday with revelations that the agency can collect data moving across Google's and Yahoo's data centers around the world -- two companies that recently shuttered their encrypted email services due to NSA surveillance concerns announced they are teaming to create a next-generation, open-source, end-to-end encrypted email protocol.

Silent Circle and Lavabit said they have launched Dark Mail, which will recruit other members to help develop a new encrypted email protocol for software developers and email service providers to adopt. The announcement was not in direct response to yesterday's latest report by The Washington Post based on NSA documents obtained by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The goal of the Dark Mail Alliance is to "bring the world a unique end-to-end encrypted protocol and architecture that is the 'next-generation' of private and secure email," the companies said in an announcement on Silent Circle's website. "What we call Email '3.0.' is an urgent replacement for today’s decades old email protocols ('1.0') and mail that is encrypted but still relies on vulnerable protocols leaking metadata ('2.0') ... Our goal is to open source the protocol and architecture and help others implement this new technology to address the privacy concerns over surveillance and back door threats of any kind."

Silent Circle and Lavabit had separately shuttered their encrypted email services this summer in the wake of initial reports of NSA's widespread surveillance programs that extended into spying on U.S. citizens' traffic.

Jon Callas, CTO at Silent Circle, said his firm had to scrap its Silent Mail service because email was now "fundamentally broken from a privacy perspective."

"This is an unfortunate example of the chilling effect the current surveillance environment is having on innovative communications companies," he said in the company's August announcement of its plans to drop the service.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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