There has been an increased interest in protecting people’s privacy online. But what seems to be driving some of the push is not a fear of the NSA grabbing people’s communications in the wake of the NSA revelations or of hiding wrongdoing but just the desire to not have a permanent record on the internet of one’s messages.
For many communications one may want one’s messages to last only until the other person has seen them with no permanent record, making them more akin to a telephone cponversation. So there has been a demand for systems in which the messages self-destruct after being read, Mission Impossible style. This would also be useful for political organizing since now repressive governments would have a very limited time to scoop up and analyze the messages before they disappear.
NPR had a story about services like Wickr and Silent Circle that enable users to send messages and photos that self-destruct, leaving no trace.
These tools include Wickr and Silent Circle, both apps that take privacy seriously. Like Snapchat, Wickr is a free app offering messages and photos that self-destruct. But unlike with Snapchat, when London and her colleagues tried to trace conversations on Wickr, they came up completely blank — no metadata, nothing.
Thor Halvorssen, founder of the Human Rights Foundation, uses Wickr to talk to activists around the world. He says these contacts in authoritarian countries used to censor themselves out of fear that they were being watched.
“Wickr has changed a lot of this, as have some of the apps for encrypted voice,” Halvorssen says.
These apps are tough to crack, even for spy agencies, because they use something called perfect forward secrecy. It’s like using a really strong lock and never using the same lock twice, Wickr co-founder Robert Statica explains.
“Once you generate the key, only one message will be encrypted with that particular key,” he says.
In the past couple of weeks, Twitter and Microsoft announced that they’ll start using this technology too, presumably to thwart the likes of the NSA.
I don’t know much about internet privacy but this seems like a start.