Since 2003, Pamela Jones – then a simple paralegal, now a journalist and editor – covered legal news regarding free and open source software on her law blog Groklaw. Her website went on to win several awards and has been a point of reference of many – but no more.
“The owner of Lavabit tells us that he’s stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we’d stop too,” she wrote today in what is to be the last post on the site. “There is no way to do Groklaw without email. Therein lies the conundrum.”
Comparing her feelings regarding the revelations about NSA surveillance and the inability to assure her sources’ privacy to how she felt violated after a burglar ransacked her apartment years ago, she says that she doesn’t know how to function or how to keep doing Groklaw in such an atmosphere.
“They tell us that if you send or receive an email from outside the US, it will be read. If it’s encrypted, they keep it for five years, presumably in the hopes of tech advancing to be able to decrypt it against your will and without your knowledge,” she writes, adding that Groklaw has readers all over the world.
Sharing her thoughts and that of author Janna Malamud Smith about the human need for privacy, she points out that feeling but not knowing for sure whether or when you are being watched inhibits people and makes them “fearful, constricted, and distracted”.
“There is now no shield from forced exposure. Nothing in that parenthetical thought list is terrorism-related, but no one can feel protected enough from forced exposure any more to say anything the least bit like that to anyone in an email, particularly from the US out or to the US in, but really anywhere. You don’t expect a stranger to read your private communications to a friend. And once you know they can, what is there to say? Constricted and distracted. That’s it exactly. That’s how I feel,” she explains.
“My personal decision is to get off of the Internet to the degree it’s possible. I’m just an ordinary person. But I really know, after all my research and some serious thinking things through, that I can’t stay online personally without losing my humanness, now that I know that ensuring privacy online is impossible.”
She stated that Groklaw cannot be done without reader and user input, and it is, therefore, impossible to continue doing it. She did share an email address that she opened with Mykolab (see Prism Break for more information) and has urged anyone who wanted to contact her to do so via that address.
It seems that Lavabit’s voluntary shut down and that Silent Mail were only the beginning. With Groklaw’s closure there’s a definite feeling that the circle is starting to slowly tighten.
“For me, the Internet is over,” says Pamela Jones, and I can’t help but wonder if the powers that be will, after all, succeed in what seemed almost impossible a decade ago: make the Internet and computer technology a means of repression and control.