Legal News Site Groklaw Shuts Down over Gov't Spying Fears
More ice on the chill of citizens' privacy rights -- Groklaw is shutting down. The site's founder is asking: If e-mail cannot be adequately protected from government scrutiny, then what is the point of running such a site?
Pamela Jones, the founder of the award-winning legal news site, announced her decision on Tuesday in a lengthy blog post explaining her decision, which she called sad but realistic.
She said Tuesday marks the last Groklaw article.
"They tell us that if you send or receive an email from outside the U.S., 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," Jones said. "Groklaw has readers all over the world."
No Room for Prying
Her motive for calling it quits can be summed up in one word: surveillance. But that reason is not just based on general principle. The very nature of Groklaw as a uniquely vital legal information site would make it impossible to condone the government's decision to spy on the email of the site's users.
Groklaw is not a one-woman show; it depends on a community of fact gatherers and volunteers who attend, transcribe, attend court hearings, pick up court documents, and also on sources who collaborate over email.
"There is no way to do Groklaw without email. Therein lies the conundrum," she asserted. "The owner of Lavabit tells us that he's stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we'd stop too," she said.
Her tone was one of frustration. "No matter how good the motives might be for collecting and screening everything we say to one another, and no matter how 'clean' we all are ourselves from the standpoint of the screeners, I don't know how to function in such an atmosphere," she said. "I don't know how to do Groklaw like this."
On Heels of Lavabit, Silent Mail
Tuesday's announcement to shutter Groklaw represents another in a series of "closing up shop" headlines this month in the wake of government surveillance. Secure email provider Lavabit announced it would cease operations because of surveillance issues. Silent Mail, a secure email service from Silent Circle, was shut down as a preemptive action rather than deal with the headaches of government interference.
"We see the writing the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now," said the company post on August 9. (The post said that Silent Phone and Silent Text, along with Silent Eyes were continuing as they have been.)
Groklaw as a source of legal news and information resources shot to fame in 2003, supporting the principles of open source software and covering technology-related court actions over intellectual properly, patents and Linux, as with the SCO-IBM case.
The site's user base grew to include those with legal and paralegal backgrounds to journalists seeking education and clarification over legal cases they covered to professors and students.
No Privacy, No Comments
"I can't do Groklaw without your input," Jones said in her blog post. "I was never exaggerating about that when we won awards. It really was a collaborative effort, and there is now no private way, evidently, to collaborate."
Jones said the Tuesday post was the last Groklaw article. "I won't turn on comments," she added.