Classic Replay: Lavabit

Today, I dip back into the archives to bring you a classic interview from the first year of this podcast. In Episode 21 (Aug 2017) I interviewed Ladar Levison, the founder of the secure email service Lavabit. He started Lavabit in 2004 as one of the first truly secure, end-to-end encrypted email services focused on the privacy of users, almost ten years before Proton Mail launched. But when the FBI came (literally) knocking in 2013 asking him to subvert the encryption so that they could monitor his users (in particular a guy named Edward Snowden), Ladar decided to shut down Lavabit instead of complying. Ladar relaunched Lavabit in 2021 and I interviewed him that summer about his company, the right to privacy, the story of the shutdown, and much more. It’s as relevant today as it was then.

Interview Notes

Further Info

Table of Contents

Use these timestamps to jump to a particular section of the show.

  • 0:00:29: Set the Wayback Machine for 2017!
  • 0:04:10: Episode 1 intro
  • 0:06:47: Ladar Levison episode intro
  • 0:09:43: How and why did you start Lavabit?
  • 0:13:24: Why did you shut Lavabit down in 2013?
  • 0:18:36: How did the Snowden FBI request differ from the previous ones?
  • 0:22:56: Why is privacy important for democracy?
  • 0:26:56: Why don’t people seem to believe privacy is important?
  • 0:28:32: Why should we fight for our right to privacy?
  • 0:30:51: What is the legal basis for email searches?
  • 0:35:12: How should we allow law enforcement access to private data?
  • 0:39:29: Do you worry about losing access to encryption technology?
  • 0:51:25: Is secure email an oxymoron?
  • 0:53:30: How do we protect users from themselves?
  • 0:55:30: Who should be using encrypted email?
  • 0:59:35: What is the new Lavabit service like?
  • 1:01:33: How does Lavabit work with non-Lavabit recipients?
  • 1:02:25: Is the new Lavavit service available now?
  • 1:04:08: Does using E2EE services get you on some watch list?
  • 1:05:56: How can people best support the right to privacy?
  • 1:07:56: Wrap-up and look ahead