The owner and CEO of the secure email service reportedly used by Edward Snowden decided to shut down Thursday rather than help the U.S. spy on his customers.

According to The Guardian: “Lavabit, an email service that boasted of its security features and claimed 350,000 customers, is no more, apparently after rejecting a court order for cooperation with the US government to participate in surveillance on its customers. It is the first such company known to have shuttered rather than comply with government surveillance.”

Lavabit’s home page has been taken over by a note from founder and owner Ladar Levison. He says he was “forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.”

Levison would like to explain to his many users why he has to shut down, but he can’t, he writes:

I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise.

Perhaps most ominously, the entrepreneur ends his note with a frightening warning: “This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.”

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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