Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.
Mobile messaging apps have become a near-necessity for any smartphone user today, but another, more unique service is aiming to join the group. Peter Sunde, one of the founders of Pirate Bay, has launched a crowdsourced funding program to release Heml.is, a messaging service that seeks to evade government monitoring programs by using end-to-end encryption — as first spotted by The Verge.
Update: Funded! The project met its goal of $100,000 on July 11.
The three founders — Sunde, Linus Olsson and Leif Högberg — are aiming to raise $100,000 to build the service that provides privacy that they say PRISM and other government programs are unable to breach:
“All communication on today’s networks are being monitored by government agencies and private companies…that’s why we decided to be the messaging platform where no-one can spy on you, even us.”
Heml.is — which means secret in Swedish — will be free to use, and the trio say it will not be plastered with ads nor will it sell customer data. Aside from the initial funding raise, it will make money by allowing users to pay to unlock additional features, such as the ability to send images.
The team is aiming to develop clients for Android and iOS, and images of the app client show a bright, iOS 7-like design with the basic messaging functions of apps like WhatsApp and iMessage.
Backers of the project can contribute upwards of $5 to buy unlock codes to install the app on their phone and share it with friends. Contributions can be made via PayPal, BitCoin or Flattr, and the founders promise to return the money if they are unsuccessful in raising the full amount.
The total donation number just ticked past $19,000 — that’s 19 percent of the target already.
Given the background of the founders and the regular new insights that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is providing about PRISM and the US government’s international Internet monitoring efforts, the app has a good chance of surpassing its target and becoming a reality.
One final word from the founders:
“Companies like Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Google have been forced to open up their systems and hand out information about their users. At the same time they have been forbidden to tell anyone about it! We would rather close down the service before letting anyone in.”
Apple recently publicly stated that its iMessage service is encrypted end-to-end, but the company’s name appears on the notorious PRISM slide detailing access to data that was released when the Guardian and Washington Post both broke news of the US data-gathering program. Though Apple and other firms named have denied consenting to have their data tapped, the issue has raised questions over the security of information on the Web.
You can find more details in the video below and on the Heml.is website.
Headline image via Shutterstock
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