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[liberationtech] Encrypted social network vies for disgruntled WhatsApp, Facebook users

Yosem Companys companys at
Thu Nov 28 22:47:41 PST 2013

November 28, 2013, 11:24 PM

Encrypted social network vies for disgruntled WhatsApp, Facebook users
Easy-to-use encryption is the aim of Syme, a service built by three
students in Montreal

By Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service

With the look of Google Plus and Facebook-like elements, a new social
network named "Syme" feels as cozy as a well-worn shoe.

But beneath the familiar veneer, it's quite different. Syme encrypts
all content, such as status updates, photos and files, so that only
people invited to a group can view it. Syme, which hosts the content
on its Canada-based servers, says it can't read it.

"The overarching goal of Syme is to make encryption accessible and
easy to use for people who aren't geeks or aren't hackers or who
aren't cryptography experts," said co-founder Jonathan Hershon.

Hershon is part of a bright trio who have self-funded Syme's
development while working out of their homes and studying at McGill
University in Montreal. Hershon is studying psychology, Louis-Antoine
Mullie is a medical student with a strong technology background, and
Christophe Marois, who works on the user interface, studies music.

"We have very low operating costs," Hershon said.

It may be the just the right time for Syme, which is now open to all
after an invite-only beta trial. The technology industry, shaken by
former NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden's revelations of large-scale
surveillance efforts by the U.S. and U.K., is looking for better ways
to shield user data from prying eyes.

Law enforcement agencies around the world are also increasingly filing
requests for data to companies such as Facebook and Twitter, who are
compelled by law to turn over data, sometimes without informing users.

Appropriate for a privacy-centered service, "Syme" is named after a
character in "1984," George Orwell's chilling novel describing total
state control. In the book, Syme was "vaporized" for being a
free-thinking individual.


Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk at Follow me on
Twitter: @jeremy_kirk


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