Lavabit and Silent Circle join forces for Dark Mail Alliance

Secure mail providers Silent Circle and Lavabit may be down, but they are certainly not out of the fight to defend email privacy. This morning, both companies have announced that they will be working together on a new project to create more sophisticated email privacy technology, dubbing themselves the “Dark Mail Alliance.”

“As founding partners of the Dark Mail Alliance, both Silent Circle and Lavabit will work to bring other members into the alliance, assist them in implementing the new protocol and work jointly to proliferate the world’s first end-to-end encrypted Email 3.0 across email software developers and service providers globally,” Silent Circle wrote in a blog post.

“Email 3.0” is the Dark Mail Alliance’s focus.  Although neither company describes in detail the exact kind of security Email 3.0 provides, Silent Circle mentions the Dark Mail Alliance’s goals:

What we call ‘Email 3.0.’ is an urgent replacement for today’s decades old email protocols (‘1.0’) and mail that is encrypted but still relies on vulnerable protocols leaking metadata (‘2.0’).

It’s an ambitious project, and the Dark Mail Alliance is actively seeking “like-minded” companies to help usher in new private email standards. It’s likely that the security will be tested with a new, active mail client, although it’s unclear when exactly that would materialize.

Both companies have struck out in a bold but necessary move — the shutdown of both Lavabit and SilentCircle’s Silent Mail has left few options for those seeking secure hosted mail services. It does, however, leave Lavabit creator Ladar Levision spread thin, as he continues his court appeal to keep the archives from his mail client away from the FBI — which is seeking firepower against NSA leaker Edward Snowden. That battle has also unveiled the tactics that the FBI used to get Levison to turn over information:  $5000 per day fines and contempt of court threats chief among them.

But if any companies were to pursue more secure email, it would be the two directly affected by the very same loopholes and protocols that help the NSA and other government bodies get their hands on personal information.