Groklaw, the IT-related legal issues site, closing due to “total surveillance”


Groklaw, the US-based website that has covered IT-related legal matters for more than a decade, is to close.

The site famously covered thorny (and ultimately protracted) matters such as file sharing, Napster, the SCO-versus-Linux lawsuit, and Orcale’s falling-out with Google over the Java API.

The reason given for Groklaw’s closure is detailed in a final, no-comments-accepted posting by the site’s founder, Pamela Jones, and can be summarised in one word: PRISM.

Jones asks her readers to “imagine how I feel now, imagining as I must what kind of world we are living in if the governments of the world think total surveillance is an appropriate thing?”

Her position seems to be that she doesn’t want to continue to solicit information via email if it might be intercepted, stored and examined, and “there is no way to do Groklaw without email.”

It’s been an interesting week or three for email-related surveillance concerns.

We’ve seen Lavabit, which was apparently Edward Snowden’s secure email provider of choice, suspend operations for legal reasons.

Founder Ladar Levison declined to go into detail about the reasons – or, more accurately, gave the reason that he wasn’t allowed to give the reasons – but his recent connection with Mr Snowden invited plenty of presumption.

Then we saw the end of secure communications provider Silent Circle’s “Silent Mail” product.

Silent Circle hadn’t been told to shut down, but decided to do so pre-emptively on the grounds that it couldn’t ensure true secrecy via email, and thus couldn’t promise you that your data wouldn’t become the subject of a lawful demand from the US authorities.

And we had something of a brouhaha about privacy on Gmail, where it seems that Google didn’t say that you had no expectation of privacy on Gmail, merely on emails sent inwards to Gmail, which is apparently not at all the same thing.

You can probably convince yourself that a mail provider that reads your incoming emails for its own commercial benefit (e.g. to target ads) is a very different matter than the government reading your emails for national security purposes…

…but you probably do want to take the time to consider the matter, just to make sure you are convinced.