This is certainly no surprise. CSO reveals, “People Flock to Anonymizing Services After NSA Snooping Reports.” Writer Grant Gross highlights several anonymous search services that have seen usage soar since certain NSA practices have come to light. DuckDuckGo is on the list, as well as Tor and mobile solution Silent Circle. The brand new Disconnect Search saw over 400,000 searches within four days of its launch. Clearly, many people are beginning to cover their virtual tracks. But is it pointless, after all? The article points out:
“Disconnect Search’s FAQ includes information about possible government searches. ‘The reality is the U.S. government may force us to begin logging the search queries of a particular user or group of users,’ the FAQ said. ‘If served with a court order that includes a non-disclosure provision, we may not be able to tell our users about this change for some period of time, possibly forever. And the U.S. government may also have other methods of monitoring user searches which Disconnect Search cannot prevent.’”
Though we now know several prominent firms quietly complied with NSA demands to fork over their records, at least one search service has elected to fold rather than cave. Lavabit made the tough choice to shut down their decade-old organization rather than comply with. . . something. Owner Ladar Levison’s explanation, which is all that is left of the site, laments that he can’t tell us exactly what was demanded of him, but his frustration and ire are apparent in the strongly worded note. He writes:
“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. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise.”
So, there’s that. Not exactly encouraging for fans of privacy. Lavison seems to hold at least a sliver of hope for a favorable verdict as Lavabit takes their fight to court. Is even that too optimistic?
Cynthia Murrell, November 20, 2013