A prominent legal news site, well known for explaining the ins and outs of technology-related law, is shutting down over its founder's fear that government agents can read her email.
In an emotional blog post published after midnight, Pamela Jones, the creator of Groklaw, wrote that she is unable to run her website and expect its community to contribute if the U.S. government's spies are looking over her shoulder and reading her correspondence.
"They tell us that if you send or receive an email from outside the US, it will be read," she wrote. "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. Groklaw has readers all over the world. I'm not a political person, by choice, and I must say, researching the latest developments convinced me of one thing -- I am right to avoid it."
Groklaw is just the latest site to shutter over concerns that government surveillance will interfere with its business. Lavabit and Silent Circle, two encrypted email services, closed two weeks ago, afraid that they could no longer protect people's private messages from the wide-reaching National Security Agency's online surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden in May. Jones cited the closure of Lavabit, thought to have been Snowden's preferred email, as a motivation behind her decision.
Over its 10 year existence, Groklaw established itself as a go-to source of legal analysis for complex, high-tech litigation, including the European Union's antitrust case against Microsoft and the recent patent battles between Apple and Samsung. Relying on contributions from readers to pick apart legal nuances, the site has won accolades from the American Bar Association, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Google.
Jones promised to shut down the site once before, in 2011, as a legal battle over Linux software that Groklaw had been following closely wound down. She decided to revive the site under a new editor a short time later while still contributing articles.
The late-night essay, in which Jones compared email surveillance to an unnerving home burglary of her old New York apartment, was uncharacteristically revealing for an intensely private person who usually chooses to go by the genderless nickname "PJ." When asked about her life by a Wikipedia editor in the mid-2000s, Jones said "I originally wanted to stay anonymous, in a sense, by just saying PJ. Eventually media attention and other factors made it impossible to remain just PJ but I would have if I could have."
Today, that strong sense of privacy is driving the editor, who's spent a better part of a decade building her website, to limit her presence on the Internet as much as humanly possible.
"Oddly, if everyone did that, leap off the Internet, the world's economy would collapse, I suppose. I can't really hope for that," she said. "But for me, the Internet is over."