Silent Circle hadn’t been asked to provide any data to the government, but following Lavabit's shutdown, rather than risk being “complicit in crimes against the American people," Silent Circle took the approach that Lavabit did: It walked away, telling customers it had killed off the Silent Mail product.
However, unlike its other products, Silent Text and Silent Phone, Silent Circle could not guarantee the privacy of its clients.
Email that uses standard Internet protocols cannot have the same security guarantees that real-time communications has. There are far too many leaks of information and metadata intrinsically in the email protocols themselves. Email as we know it with SMTP, POP3, and IMAP cannot be secure.To be clear, Silent Circle had not yet received any subpoenas or requests for information from the government, but considering Lavabit's shutdown, the company thought it was best to be proactive and avoid the inevitable.
And yet, many people wanted it. Silent Mail has similar security guarantees to other secure email systems, and with full disclosure, we thought it would be valuable.
The company had, it said, been considering the move for weeks, anyway, and it wasn't just because of the insecurities of POP3 and IMAP email. Instead, the company said, it was because a number of high-profile "targets" were users of the service, and a legal request wax bound to come soon. CEO Michael Janke said:
There are some very high profile people on Silent Circle -- and I mean very targeted people -- as well as heads of state, human rights groups, reporters, special operations units from many countries. We wanted to be proactive because we knew USG would come after us due to the sheer amount of people who use us -- let alone the “highly targeted high profile people."
They are completely secure and clean on Silent Phone, Silent Text and Silent Eyes, but email is broken because govt can force us to turn over what we have. So to protect everyone and to drive them to use the other three peer to peer products -- we made the decision to do this before men on [SIC] suits show up. Now -- they are completely shut down -- nothing they can get from us or try and force from us -- we literally have nothing anywhere.