What happened to Lavabit? Edward Snowden's Safe Mail

Edward Snowden was a computer intelligence consultant who worked, through a subcontractor, for the United States government, specifically for the NSA (National Security Agency) until 2013, when he leaked a large amount of information classified as secret in which revealed the practices of the American government to spy on both its citizens and presidents of foreign governments through technology.

Snowden disclosed much of the information he had obtained through his work as an intelligence consultant through an email from Lavabit.

What happened to Lavabit


Lavabit was an encrypted email service founded in 2004, a company that was born to meet the privacy needs of users shortly after the launch of Gmail, Google’s email service, since it analyzed both emails and the content to display personalized ads, one of the foundations of Google’s business at the time and which has now made it the largest advertising company in the world.

This platform offered users a private mail platform with asymmetric encryption that was impossible for any person or government agency to crack . In addition, it also offered storage service in different price plans, storage services that used the same encryption security, making it impossible for the information stored on its servers to be accessed from.

The NSA knew perfectly well how this company worked and just one day after the email that Edward Snowden sent to the media to leak part of the documents he had obtained, the Lavabit offices received a request from the American government urging him to give access to Snowden’s email account.


United States law obliges any company that is present in the country to provide all the information necessary for any ongoing investigation as long as it is requested by a judge, so the company could not refuse. Google, Microsoft, Apple and others have an obligation to collaborate with different government organizations and, if they refuse, the consequences for the company, no matter how great, can be devastating.

The founder of Lavabit, Ladar Levison, announced shortly after that his plans did not go through betraying the trust of his clients and announced that the platform stopped working in August 2013 , so the government of the country could not have access to all the information Snowden had gleaned from his work as a consultant to an NSA subcontractor.


Far from abandoning this project, the founder of Lavabit began working on the Dark Mail Alliance protocol, a protocol that both sender and receiver must use in order to access emails that are sent using end-to-end encryption. In January 2017, Lavabit started operating again with this new security protocol-


As we have commented in the previous section, after closing its doors in 2013, Lavabit returned to operation 4 years later, in 2017 with a new security protocol that does not allow it to access the content stored on its servers, so if any government wants to have access, from the company itself they cannot give it to them. An interesting option to Lavabit is found in ProtonMail , a secure mail platform that encrypts content from end to end.