Groklaw, a legal news site that has won numerous awards for its courtroom coverage of tech issues during the last decade, is shutting down in the wake of revelations about the lack of online privacy.
In a farewell post published on Groklaw.net early Tuesday, paralegal and founder Pamela Jones wrote that she will no longer update her site following the recent high-profile disclosures about digital surveillance programs operated by the United States government and other nations abroad.
“[T]he conclusion I've reached is that there is no way to continue doing Groklaw, not long term, which is incredibly sad. But it's good to be realistic,” she wrote.
Jones said Tuesday that the recent shuttering of encrypted email provider Lavabit over surveillance woes put her over the edge with regards to whether or not she should continue publishing her site in the wake of leaked National Security Agency documents detailing vast-reaching spy programs that collect the emails entering and exiting the US.
“The owner of Lavabit tells us that he's stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we'd stop too,” Jones wrote. “There is no way to do Groklaw without email. Therein lies the conundrum.”
“And 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,” she
Forced Exposure ~pj --- This is the last Groklaw article. Thank you for all you've done. I will never forget you and our work together.— Groklaw (@Groklaw) August 20, 2013
"There is now no shield from forced exposure," she wrote.
Citing leaked NSA documents describing how any email intended or sent from a non-US person can be retained for years — as well as any correspondence encrypted for security — Jones wrote that she no longer feels comfortable running a site where she suspects her communications with an international audience can legally be intercepted by the US government.
“I'm just an ordinary person. But I really know, after all my research and some serious thinking things through, that I can't stay online personally without losing my humanness, now that I know that ensuring privacy online is impossible,” she said.
“[F]or me, the Internet is over.”
Jones’ decision comes less than two weeks after Lavabit owner Ladar Levison announced he’d be shutting down his email service after more than nine years. “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,” he wrote on his website. In an interview with RT, Levison made further comments suggesting that he was asked by investigators to provide the government with access to private emails or risk prosecution.
“Our government can order us to do things that are morally and ethically wrong, order us to spy on other Americans and then order us — using the threat of imprisonment — to keep it all secret,” he told RT.
Hours after Lavabit closed down abruptly, competitor Silent Circle said they’d be taking their secure email service offline as well after seeing “the writing on the wall.” Now only days down the road, another site has pulled the plug not over fears it will be asked to compromise the privacy of its customers, but because that sense of security is largely already absent.
“Another site,” tweeted Cato Institute fellow Julian Sanchez, “decides it's not worth being online if there's no real privacy.”
Another site decides it's not worth being online if there's no real privacy. http://t.co/os4ilbczgM— Julian Sanchez (@normative) August 20, 2013