General view of atmosphere at the Edward Snowden Interviewed by Jane Mayer at the MasterCard stage at SVA Theatre during The New Yorker Festival 2014 on October 11, 2014 in New York City.
Bryan Bedder—Getty Images for The New Yorker
By Tara John
January 23, 2017

The encrypted e-mail server Lavabit, once used by exiled National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, is relaunching.

Following Snowden’s leak of classified NSA information in 2013, the FBI demanded the site’s encryption keys in order to access his email account. Federal investigators also wanted the company’s owner, Ladar Levison, to install surveillance equipment on the company’s servers. But in defiance of a court order, and in a bid to prevent his some 410,000 customers emails from being compromised, Levison shut down the site in 2013.

Four years later, and on the inauguration of President Donald Trump, Levison has resurrected the service with a range of new security features that he says will protect users’ emails from prying government agencies.

“Today is Inauguration Day in the United States, the day we enact one of our most sacred democratic traditions, the peaceful transition of power” Levison wrote in a press release on Jan. 20. “Regardless of one’s political disposition, today we acknowledge our shared values of Freedom, Justice, and Liberty as secured by our Constitution. This is the reason why I’ve chosen today to relaunch Lavabit.”


Levison told the Intercept that the relaunch was the “first step” in a long journey. “What we’re hoping for is that by the end of this year we’ll be more secure than any of the other encrypted messaging apps out there on the market” he said.


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