Groklaw is one of our favorite blogs; it’s a discussion and dissection of the intersection of technology and the law, focusing on open source but also on antitrust and patent law and all kinds of other things we care about. And today the founder and chief writer, Pamela Jones, announced that she’s shutting down Groklaw for good, citing concerns over government surveillance.
“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. Groklaw has readers all over the world,” writes Jones, presumably talking about Gmail, which retains encrypted emails. “There is no way to do Groklaw without email,” she continues, though she doesn’t elaborate (presumably this is how she communicates with sources and legal advisers who like to remain anonymous). She says she is personally switching to Kolab, a Swiss email company, but that her “personal decision is to get off of the Internet to the degree it’s possible.”
Kolab does not offer encryption, but it’s a paid service that keeps all data in Switzerland, which is somewhat of a haven for privacy (the country, according to Kolab, wiretapped only 20 times in 2012, which is basically nothing compared to the U.S.). Kolab says it complies with Swiss requests, but only Swiss, and vows to publicize it if it ever receives one.
It’s an odd choice, to shut the site down completely; there are plenty of secure email services out there, as Jones knows, considering she’s switching to one. The motivation seems less about concerns that her personal email will be read than total disgust that the state of privacy and the law has come to this. “What I do know is it’s not possible to be fully human if you are being surveilled 24/7,” she writes. Jones is semi-famously private; she writes as merely “PJ.” “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. I have no desire to be famous, for one thing,” she once wrote.
We’ll miss Groklaw if it’s truly gone, but if this shutdown, along with Lavabit’s, is an early sign of mass revolt against surveillance, perhaps it’ll have some positive effect after all. Groklaw will remain online as a resource, but will not update with new posts.