A New Surveillance Defeating Messaging App
July 11, 2013
An app for both Android and iOS is being planned by one of the original founders of The Pirate Bay. In the wake of PRISM server surveillance and Tempora traffic surveillance, it plans to use true end-to-end encryption so that only its users will ever see the content.
Peter Sunde, co-founder and former spokesman for The Pirate Bay, is part of a new company and project: Heml.is. ‘Hemlis’ is Swedish for secret, and the project is a completely secure and secret chat app for iOS and Android. The intention is to use end-to-end encryption so that only the users can ever know the content of the message.
“All communication on today’s networks is being monitored by government agencies and private companies,” says Sunde in a video. “The politicians are not going to stop it, they’re actually asking for more. That’s why we decided to build a messaging platform where no one can spy on you, not even us.” If law enforcement or intelligence agencies intercept the messages, they will not be able to decipher them. If they obtain court orders for access to the servers, they will only get encrypted files because that’s all that will exist on the servers.
Sunde doesn’t accept the political argument that encrypted chat would be a boon for terrorists and organized crime. “We are talking here about normal people who do not have access to that technology yet. So terrorists are definitely not going to be on our system – they are already on their own systems; they wouldn’t trust us… so I think the only people we are helping are the [ordinary citizens] whom the government is surveilling,” he told RT yesterday.
The app will be free for basic messages, but there will be a charge ‘to unlock certain features’. The purpose is to provide the funding to run the service and maintain development (future file-sharing, for example, is an aspiration). Details are not yet clear, but Heml.is stresses that it “will never introduce adds or selling your data to fund the app.” One option might be a time-limiter for storage on the server: if the message is not collected within a specified time period, it could be automatically deleted.
The project is being funded by donations. “The fundraising campaign is in its early stage, though,” warned RT yesterday, “so there is no official release date planned for the application.
But this morning Heml.is blogged, “Funded 100% in 36 hours!
Wow and incredible thanks to all our backers for funding us in 36 hours…
“Now it’s time to get to work!”
At the time of writing this report, Heml.is had received $110.324 (the target was $100,000) in 42 hours.