Groklaw closes over NSA surveillance

A website specializing in legal news relating to open source software says it will cease activity because of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program. Pamela Jones, who runs Groklaw, says it’s no longer possible to guarantee confidentiality to sources.

The site covered many of the patent and other legal cases relating to technology including battles over the use of Linux, the Apple-Samsung disputes, and the various claims of anti-competitive behavior by Microsoft.

As well as simply reporting news and collating court documents, it was designed to bring lawyers and technical experts together to share their respective knowledge. Jones noted to Cnet that “I just happened to have the very skills needed to explain the law to geeks, and they showed up in large numbers to explain the tech to me.”

Jones cites reports of the NSA’s activity, explaining that her understanding is that:

if you send or receive an email from outside the US, it will be read. If it’s encrypted, they keep it for five years, presumably in the hopes of tech advancing to be able to decrypt it against your will and without your knowledge.

That’s certainly the impression created by leaked documents from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court detailing the legal authority under which the NSA is allowed to monitor and store communications data.

Jones notes the closure of Lavabit, an encrypted e-mail service. Its owner said he was unable to detail the precise reasons for the closure for legal reasons, but said it was the only alternative to becoming “complicit in crimes against the American people.” Third-party reports have suggested that the site was hit by a court order demanding it hand over e-mails, possibly those sent and received by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Jones goes on to explain that she isn’t simply shutting the site down:

My personal decision is to get off of the Internet to the degree it’s possible. 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.

The Groklaw site will remain online, but no new material will be added and its discussion forums will likely shut in a couple of weeks.

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