YouTube video
Ladar Levison was the founder and owner of secure email service Lavabit that was shut down earlier this year after he was forced to turn the site’s encryption keys over to the government.

Levison, interviewed by This Week in Tech’s Leo Laporte, says the government forced him to release the site’s secure encryption keys that would have given them access to data flowing in and out of the service from all users – not just a single target. It is believed that Edward Snowden, who continues to leak classified NSA documents to the media, was using the service to communicate with journalists.

Lavabit’s security was more robust than other commercial email providers in that users hold their own encryption keys to email data they store on the company’s servers. Levison (and the government for that matter) could not decrypt data on the Lavabit servers. The keys the government requested from Levison would have enabled government agents to monitor data from any user on his service.

“My particular system was unique in the sense that it was encrypted in and it was encrypted out,” Levison said, speculating that his security model made it impossible for the government to monitor traffic flowing in and out of the service.

Read more about how the NSA monitors the Internet

Levison was restricted from commenting publicly on the matter until now. In shuttering the service, Levison said to comply with the government request and continue operating would have made him complicit in “crimes against the American people.”

Levison did eventually turn over the keys, but not in a format the government was expecting.  Rather than supply them electronically, he printed the key out on 11 pages in small type.

“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,” Levison wrote in his announcement shutting down the service.

Levison speculates that other email providers have already granted the government access to their systems, using servers that automate the process of serving warrants and turning over specific user data to government agents.

Lon Seidman is the host and producer of “Lon.TV,” a consumer technology video show that is on a number of platforms including YouTube and Amazon. He creates in-depth, consumer-friendly product reviews and commentary. His YouTube channel has over 300,000 subscribers and more than 100 million views.

In addition to being a full-time content creator, Lon is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Hartford (his alma mater) where he teaches a course in entrepreneurial content creation.

Prior to becoming a full-time creator, Lon was a partner at The Safety Zone, his family’s business that manufactures gloves and safety equipment. The company has locations around the globe and employs over 200 people worldwide. The Safety Zone was acquired by the Genuine Parts Corporation in 2016.

Lon is also active in public service, serving as the Chairman of the Essex Board of Education, a member of the Region 4 Board of Education, and as the Secretary / Treasurer of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education. He was endorsed by both Democrats and Republicans for his re-election in 2021.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of