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Lavabit case highlights legal fuzziness around encryption rules

Joab Jackson | Jan. 29, 2014
While privacy advocates may see Lavabit as bravely defending U.S. privacy rights in the online world, federal judges hearing its appeal of contempt-of-court charges seem to regard the now defunct encrypted email service as just being tardy in complying with government court orders.

The judges did not seem to want to dwell on any possible Fourth Amendment issues. The ACLU has pointed out that the U.S. government possessing a set of private SSL keys that could unlock hundreds of thousands of users' emails is clearly a breach of privacy rights.

Peterson stated that the court order for the SSL keys specifically confined the law enforcement agency to only use the keys to examine the information of the one person under investigation.

The judges gave no indication of when they would return a verdict. Peterson said the government has no plans to prosecute Lavabit for obstruction of justice for shutting down its services after installing the pen trap.



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