Internet privacy relies heavily on the ability of tech companies to hide user content-such as your emails and bank information-behind a secure wall. But the Department of Justice is waging an unprecedented battle in court to win the power to seize the keys of US companies whenever the US government wants. Edward Snowden has shown that the government is already doing a great job at getting companies to hand over information, breaking down weak doors, and scooping up unlocked material. But if the Justice Department succeeds in this case, it will be far easier for it to do so, and-poof!-there will no longer be any guarantee of internet privacy.

The case started this summer, when Lavabit-an alternative email provider that promised highly secure email-was handed a subpoena by the Department of Justice. The subpoena required that Lavabit supply the billing and subscriber information for one of its users, widely believed to be Edward Snowden. Lavabit supplied this information. Then, the government asked to install a device on Lavabit’s servers that would allow it to monitor all of the metadata (time and email addresses) of the individual’s account. But Lavabit encrypted all of this information, and the only way for the […]

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