Lavabit’s Ladar Levison Discusses Privacy And Dark Mail At SXSW 2014

If there were any thematic backdrops present at SXSW 2014, certainly privacy was one of them. To be sure, the Edward Snowden and Julian Assange keynotes were packed, but there was also a more subtle conversation about privacy taking place in Austin this week. Of all these viewpoints described to me, none had the same intensity nor conviction as those I heard in my chat with Lavabit’s Ladar Levison.

You may recall Lavabit — the encrypted email service used by Edward Snowden — being shut down in August at the hands of its own creator, Mr. Levison, after a protracted battle with the U.S. Government. The government was requiring Mr. Levison to hand over SSL keys to the encrypted accounts, to search for information about Snowden.

A staunch privacy enthusiast, Levison resisted as long as legally possible, until ultimately being forced to deliver access for Snowden’s account, but not before shutting down the rest of his ten-year-old service in an attempt to protect the privacy of his other clients — a move he says he didn’t take lightly.

Nowadays, Levison is back on the scene after funding his next service called Dark Mail via Kickstarter. I caught up with him and we discussed the past, present and future.