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 — 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, 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 and others have warned that no tech tool is immune to tracking, and Skype looks to be no exception. Ars Technica 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.

 

Image courtesy of Wickr

 

 

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  • 42Across

    If they are not collecting personal information and are not charging for their app, how are they making any money – especially if this is “military grade” (as opposed to the Kindergarten grade Snapchat.)

  • Levi Sumagaysay

    42Across: Wickr says it will eventually start charging for a premium business model, but it intends to keep offering a free app.

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  • Steve

    Military grade encryption impies it is of the same standard as that used by the military. Do you honestly think that form of encryption is NOT cracked already? You also forget to note that this is only as good as the device’s security measures. It has been proved that iPhone reveals sensitive data out with the applications therefore nullifying any “military grade” model.

    Get a grip people.

  • Joe

    Wickr has been promising a android version over a year now. They need to come to terms with they cant seem it get cross compatibility to work an be done with it. It was supposed to be released last summer. They asked if I was interested in being an android beta tester and I replied I would be, but the was the last of it. Further inquiry to when it was available and they dont respond.

 
 
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