August 9, 2013

Hushmail - Lavabit - Where does the madness end?

Lavabit abruptly shut down today because its owner, in his own words, refused "to become complicit in crimes against the American people." What he means by that we will perhaps never know, due to the accompanying gag order.

But I can't help speculating. My best guess is that the government tried to get Lavabit to do what Hushmail has implied is within the bounds of what a government can do: compel a company to abuse the trust placed in them by distributing compromised software with a government backdoor.

But if a government can do that, then where does the madness end?

Can Apple be compelled to send a compromised version of iOS to a particular iPhone, e.g. keeping the microphone and camera on at all times, sending data to the NSA? Can Google be compelled to do the same for Glass? For a single "target", or even for larger group of "foreign nationals"?

Can Cisco, Juniper and Alcatel-Lucent be compelled to implement functionality in their equipment to siphon off certain network traffic around the word, for the NSA to study in Fort Meade? That would likely make criminals of these companies' employees, at least in other jurisdictions than the US. As unlikely as that sounds Microsoft has already made statements indicating that they (and any other US based company) can be compelled by the US government to hand over personal data stored in EU data centers. That would probably be a crime in most EU countries; e.g. in Sweden it would likely fall under "unlawful intelligence gathering" and a carry prison sentence of up to 4 years.

So where does the madness end? Perhaps nowhere. Perhaps that's why the US government is so afraid of Huawei and ZTE; they know what they themselves are prepared to compel a US company to do, so cannot imagine that Huawei or ZTE could ever say no to the Chinese.

Using force to coerce otherwise law-abiding citizens to commit crimes, that used to be the hallmark of mafia. Has it now become a cornerstone of civil service? We need the UN to step in or something. We need some sort of international treaty.