It’s a dark time for email and privacy in general. Thanks to the NSA and its collaborators, e-mail has come under fire. Nobody knows that better than Ladar Levison, who recently shut down his security enhanced Lavabit email service, which was used by whistleblower Edward Snowden, due to government requests for user data.
Levison has a plan though. On Monday, he launched a campaign on Kickstarter to raise funds for what he calls the Dark Mail Initiative. In partnership with encrypted communication service Silent Circle, Levison hopes to make Dark Mail a new email protocol that provides users with end-to-end encryption that would make it impossible for anyone to access users’ messages.
“No one can guarantee that a third-party is or is not eavesdropping on a series of communications,” Levison writes on the Kickstarter page, “but Dark Mail can guarantee that when a third-party does gain access, or demands access, the privacy users rightfully deserve is maintained without fail.”
Dark Mail will, according to Levison, be a completely new messaging protocol that has PGP encryption built in. (It will also be open source, meaning anyone can make sure the code is doing what Levison says it is.) Now, if you know anything about current PGP email encryption methods, you also know that using them can be a giant pain in the rear. Levison says he solves this problem by making the encryption functionality “invisible to the user.”
“Dark Mail users will get the security of PGP without the cognitive burden; if someone can use email today they will be able to use Dark Mail tomorrow,” writes Levison.
Levison is looking to raise the oddly specific goal of $196,608 by November 27, and has so far earned nearly $17,000 from more than 500 backers as of this writing. If the campaign is successful, Levison and the Silent Circle team will release the Dark Mail client for all major operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS.