About three months after Lavabit closed down to avoid becoming “complicit in crimes against the American people,” Lavabit creator Ladar Levison launched a Kickstarter campaign to build a new secure email service that supports "dark mail."
Dark mail is a new form of end-to-end email encryption designed to provide secure and protected email communication by encrypting both message content and metadata. Levison’s Kickstarter aims to raise the rather specific amount of $196,608 to turn the source code behind Lavabit into the first free and open-source dark mail client to launch on desktops, smartphones and tablets.
“No one can guarantee that a third-party is or is not eavesdropping on a series of communications, but Dark Mail can guarantee that when a third-party does gain access, or demands access, the privacy users rightfully deserve is maintained without fail,” Levison wrote on the Kickstarter account. Dark mail will be integrated into the email service, so users won’t even know that it’s there.
“Dark Mail users will get the security of PGP without the cognitive burden; if someone can use email today they will be able to use Dark Mail tomorrow.”
Lavabit gained public recognition as the email service NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden used to leak information about secret surveillance programs to journalists. It’s believed that government pressure by the NSA to turn over the encryption keys led Levison to shut down Lavabit in August. Levison has still not been explicit about the reasons behind closing Lavabit, but the Kickstarter page does identify that the “Summer of Snowden” was at least partially responsible.
Levison is working Silent Circle, a Washington, D.C.-based company that specialized in global encrypted communication. Silent Circle also suspended operations in August because of leaks about the NSA. Silent Circle and Lavabit have since joined forces to form a nonprofit organization known as the Dark Mail Alliance.
Levison said the money will be used to hire programmers with the experience necessary to code the project. By making it open-source, he hopes more users will be able to use it.
In the first day of funding, the Kickstarter project has attracted 753 backers and $25,843. There are still 22 days left in the campaign.