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[liberationtech] Wickr app aims to safeguard online privacy
Nathan of Guardian
nathan at guardianproject.info
Sun Feb 3 07:34:17 PST 2013
On 02/03/2013 08:42 PM, Rich Kulawiec wrote:
> "uncrackable"? "self-destruct"? "patent pending"? "decoy images"?
The sad thing is, that until I read this story, I had a very positive
feeling about Wickr, and, even with its closed codebase, thought it
could be a good solution for iOS users in some places, if some sort of
audit could be done.
Just to be clear, I am not against 1) trying to make money through
software 2) tech startups 3) enthusiastic tech journalism and 4)
entrepreneurs who truly want to make people's lives better.
However, I just want to contrast the Wickr story (and the quotes
epsecially) with a recent story about a very similar app called Gryphn.
I suppose you could give credit to the blogger for better journalism,
but I have to expect the overall tone of the story is set by the subject
themselves. (disclosure: Gryphn's on-device encryption is implemented
using two open-source libraries from the Guardian Project: SQLCipher and
"Gryphn’s secure messaging app has nothing to do with sexting"
I’m surprised we aren’t all sick of talking about sexting by now. Sure,
services like Snapchat and Facebook Poke offer tech reporters a rare
opportunity to write about something more salacious than boardroom
meetings or venture capital, but the idea that secure, self-destructing
photos are only important if they contain genitalia has gotten old.
Gryphn, a security platform startup, gets that. The latest update to its
secure messaging app is less about competing with either Snapchat or
Facebook and more about making sure the kinds of information we share
with one another every day is safe. While that security might lend
itself to some… let’s go with “off-label” usage, it’s hardly at the core
of the service.
People share all kinds of information via SMS. I’ve personally sent and
received PIN codes and passwords in the last month with nary a thought
about the message’s security. Other people might use messaging to share
other personal information without thinking about it, or send a photo
(which doesn’t necessarily have to be risqué) that they’d prefer didn’t
last forever. We often think of our phones as windows into our digital
lives, but there’s plenty of “real world” information that gets
transmitted by these ever-personal supercomputers.
Gryphn wants to make it easier for people to secure their
communications. The app, which is currently available for Android,
allows users to send and receive secure text and picture messages as
well as setting self-destruct timers that will delete the communication
from the recipient’s phone. Many features require that both the
recipient and the sender use Gryphn, which is a bit of a downside at the
moment, but the company has plans to partner with other companies to
spread awareness about its services. (Which is about as vague as a
company can be about future plans, but I’m told that that’s all they can
say for now.)
People send sensitive information, because they need to get things done,
says Gryphn CTO Aaron Huttner. “I’m going to send these messages anyway
despite the repercussions. It’s not that I don’t understand them — it’s
because the perceived benefits are higher than the risks,” he says. But
if the ability to secure those messages isn’t a hassle, why not take
advantage of it?
Unlike Snapchat, which we’ve argued as being important because it shows
how the concept of a photograph is changing and becoming more ephemeral,
Gryphn is about securing the information that users are sharing every
day. It isn’t encouraging (or discouraging) a new form of communication
so much as it is offering a security blanket to people who recognize the
permanency of digital and how much of their lives are transmitted via
As security becomes more of an issue to people who would prefer that
“their bidness stays their bidness,” as no one might say, I imagine
tools like Gryphn will become increasingly popular. It probably says
something about our culture that the only use case we can think of as
benefiting from secure communication would be so lewd, but, eventually,
security is going to be seen as important for things seen outside the
The sooner services like Gryphn are able to escape that perception, the
sooner we’ll all be able to appreciate security instead of going “Eww,
they want to take pictures of what?”
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