Two US email services offering private encrypted email have closed down and destroyed their servers rather than reveal their customers’ data to the National Security Agency. Texas based Lavabit and Maryland company Silent Circle have both closed down their encrypted email services. Lavabit was used by Edward Snowden, and it’s owner Ladar Levinson has suggested that he received a secret demand from the NSA to hand over his customers’ data. Silent Circle has said that it has received no demand, but it closed down in order to protect its clients’ privacy. Both companies provided secure email to governments, famous figures and others in need of secure email.

Levison made this announcement on his website: "I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests."

Levinson concludes, "I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States."

Silent Circle also offers encrypted phone and messaging services which have not been shut down and which, according to the company, remain secure. Among the company’s founders was Phillip R. Zimmermann, who created the pioneering Pretty Good Privacy encryption protocol that has become an essential internet encryption tool worldwide.

On Friday President Obama stated in a press conference called to address public concern about governmental electronic spying that he supported a proposal to make the procedures of the secret court that approves electronic spying more open, and announced that he had created a task force to advise his administration regarding new methods that would balance security and privacy.

No other US-based secure email services have so far announced shutdown.

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