In December, I wrote about the effort in Washington to force telecommunications companies to store your text messages for two years just in case they needed them.
It’s a huge expense for the companies being compelled to store them, and it’s also very Orwellian. I can see a whole division of Thought Police being dedicated to scouring text messages for thought crimes.
Enter, Silent Circle and their “surveillance proof app” to protect your calls and texts from government scrutiny:
Named Silent Circle, it is in essence a series of applications that can be used on a mobile device to encrypt communications—text messages, plus voice and video calls. Currently, apps for the iPhone and iPad are available, with versions for Windows, Galaxy, Nexus, and Android in the works. An email service is also soon scheduled to launch.
The encryption is peer to peer, which means that Silent Circle doesn’t centrally hold a key that can be used to decrypt people’s messages or phone calls. Each phone generates a unique key every time a call is made, then deletes it straight after the call finishes. When sending text messages or images, there is even a “burn” function, which allows you to set a time limit on anything you send to another Silent Circle user—a bit like how “this tape will self destruct”goes down in Mission: Impossible, but without the smoke or fire.
While that’s very cool, it wasn’t enough for Silent Circle.
They just upped the ante:
Now, the company is pushing things even further—with a groundbreaking encrypted data transfer app that will enable people to send files securely from a smartphone or tablet at the touch of a button. (For now, it’s just being released for iPhones and iPads, though Android versions should come soon.) That means photographs, videos, spreadsheets, you name it—sent scrambled from one person to another in a matter of seconds.
“This has never been done before,” boasts Mike Janke, Silent Circle’s CEO. “It’s going to revolutionize the ease of privacy and security.”
The technology uses a sophisticated peer-to-peer encryption technique that allows users to send encrypted files of up to 60 megabytes through a “Silent Text” app. The sender of the file can set it on a timer so that it will automatically “burn”—deleting it from both devices after a set period of, say, seven minutes. Until now, sending encrypted documents has been frustratingly difficult for anyone who isn’t a sophisticated technology user, requiring knowledge of how to use and install various kinds of specialist software. What Silent Circle has done is to remove these hurdles, essentially democratizing encryption. It’s a game-changer that will almost certainly make life easier and safer for journalists, dissidents, diplomats, and companies trying to evade state surveillance or corporate espionage. Governments pushing for more snooping powers, however, will not be pleased.
If it causes men like O’Brien to lose a little sleep, I consider it a service to the country.