Some people have an invincibility mind set that nothing will ever be able to be tied to them or derived from their online communications.
Well guess what? They do not have to use your online communications to find out who you are. All that needs to happen, is for you to do something stupid and become a person of interest and they will be monitoring your activities online to the best of their abilities. Remember you only need to screw up once.
For example, maybe you become a person of interest and the FBI gains a subpoena to your Facebook account where you stupidly bragged to a friend of yours about participating in certain online activities. This happened to one of the members of LulzSec who transferred a data dump that he obtained through SQL injection exploits to a friend of his using his own Facebook in his own name. So do not ever talk about Silk Road or any of your online activities on any social media platform.
Even if a company does not currently keep logs, a court order may perhaps be used to force a company to start keeping logs. Hush Mail was forced to hand over 12 CDs worth of e-mails from three Hushmail accounts, following a court order obtained through a mutual assistance treaty between the U.S. and Canada. According to the following article.
When it comes to being threatened by a court order from the federal government, 99.99% of all companies will comply to avoid either prosecution themselves, or shutting down their business as we saw previously with Hide My Ass.
But one company decided to stand up to this type of bullying that you may have heard of called LavaBit as seen in the following article.
The email service used by whistleblower Edward Snowden refused FBI requests to “defeat its own system,” according to newly unsealed court documents.
The founder of Lavabit, Ladar Levison, repeatedly pushed back against demands by the authorities to hand over the encryption keys to his system, frustrating federal investigators who were trying to track Snowden’s communications, the documents show.
Levison is now subject to a government gag order and has appealed against the search warrants and subpoenas demanding access to his service. He closed Lavabit in August saying he did not want to be “complicit in crimes against the American people”.
In July, the authorities obtained a search warrant demanding Lavabit hand over any encryption keys and SSL keys that protected the site. Levison was threatened with criminal contempt – which could have potentially put him in jail – if he did not comply. Such a move would have given the government access to all of Lavabit users’ information.
The court ordered Levison to be fined $5,000 a day beginning 6 August until he handed over electronic copies of the keys. Two days later Levison handed over the keys hours after he shuttered Lavabit.
You see what I am talking about? The federal government ordered this man to hand over all his encryption keys and SSL keys which compromised the privacy of 400,000 users just so they could gain more data on one man, Edward Snowden. And they used bullying tactics and attempted to bankrupt the owner of Lavabit by fining him $5,000 per day until he handed over the keys. Unfortunately Levison had no choice but to hand over the keys or lose everything.
An interview on Reddit with Levison revealed what he claimed that other secure email providers who threatened to shut down were forced to stay up.
Lavabit’s founder has claimed other secure webmail providers who threatened to shut themselves down in the wake of the NSA spying revelations had received court orders forcing them to stay up.
There you have it. Anyone who tries to stand up to the government, especially in the United States will be met with swift justice, court orders and outrageous fines unless they comply and on top of it, slapped with gag orders so they cannot tell anybody about what the government is doing.