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[liberationtech] Want to shield text, photos from government? Wickr says it has an app for that | SiliconBeat

Yosem Companys companys at stanford.edu
Sat Jun 8 11:22:34 PDT 2013


http://www.siliconbeat.com/2013/06/07/want-to-shield-text-photos-from-government-wickr-says-it-has-an-app-for-that/

The U.S. government has acknowledged — with President Obama saying this
morning in San Jose that it’s all in the name of
security<http://www.mercurynews.com/nation-world/ci_23411831/obama-defends-surveillance-programs-san-jose>
—
that its agencies are spying on Americans’ phone calls and Internet
communications in some fashion. There are tech tools that claim they can
get around such surveillance, and one of them is Wickr, an app made by a
San Francisco startup.

Wickr is similar to
Snapchat<http://www.siliconbeat.com/2013/02/08/quoted-on-snapchat-wickr-and-erasing-our-digital-tracks/>,
the popular app that allows users to destroy messages and photos sent on
mobile phones after a certain time. But the 1-year-old company’s app is
“military grade,” founder Nico Sell said in a phone interview this morning.

Sell says Wickr users can “send text messages, videos, documents that
self-destruct — all encrypted, and it exceeds NSA top-level encryption on
the device before it goes out on network with a key that only you have.”

“Very few people in the world can do what we’ve done,” Sell said. She says
she has advocated for the annual Defcon hacking conference for more than a
decade. The company’s other founders include a team of privacy and security
experts, according to a spokeswoman.

If the government comes knocking with a subpoena, Wickr could turn over its
database, but the information would be “useless,” Sell said, because the
company doesn’t collect personal information about its users. It claims to
have no call logs or location data. This also means such information is
inaccessible to wireless providers, advertisers and other companies that
usually collect it.

Sell touts Wickr as an alternative to messaging offered by Whatsapp and
Skype. Skype, the service owned by Microsoft, has long been thought as
secure. But experts quoted by
CNNMoney<http://money.cnn.com/2013/06/06/technology/security/verizon-call-logs/index.html>
and
others have warned that no tech tool is immune to tracking, and Skype looks
to be no exception. Ars
Technica<http://arstechnica.com/security/2013/05/think-your-skype-messages-get-end-to-end-encryption-think-again/>
recently
reported that Microsoft regularly scans messages.

Could Wickr do something similar? “This is a big thing with us. It was a
huge requirement that we never collected private information, period,” Sell
said.

The app is free for iOS users only for now. Sell said an Android version,
and voice calling, are due out this summer.
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