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By 10 July 2013 | Categories: news

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Revelations about the NSA’s PRISM programme, which revealed that people’s messages and online communication was considerably less private than many assumed, certainly had its share of fallout.

But, apart from the Edward Snowden saga which continues unabated, here is one other impact that app users may not have seen coming – a crowded-funded drive for the development of an encrypted messaging app from the cofounder of The Pirate Bay, Peter Sunde.

Sunde, together with Linus Olsson and Leif Högberg, are behind Heml.is (which means secret in Swedish). On its site, the trio explain that “while they love the internet, social networks and the power it gives for sharing and social networks”, currying far less favour is that private communication has become an open stream for companies and governments to listen into.

They continue that popular social networks and internet companies have been forced to open up their systems and hand out information about their users. Their response? Build a message app that no one can listen in on, including themselves.

Sacred secrets

The site also notes that .is is a top level domain in Iceland, notorious for not easily bending to external pressure to release clients’ data. In a decent show of support for the concept of personal communication that is actually private, the app has already ready reached almost 25% of its $24 551 goal.

While the app, currently slated for iOS and Android devices, will offer message encryption for free, there will be a charge to unlock extra features, such as sending image messages. This is due to the fact that Heml.is will not be funded via advertising or selling users’ data

As to how it will differentiate itself from established apps such as WhatsApp, MessageMe and iChat, the trio elaborated its focus is on the users’ privacy, with everything involved in the app, including the company structure, revolving around that core imperative.  

“We're building a message app where no one can listen in, not even us. We would rather close down the service before letting anyone in,” the group stress.

As the app is still in its crowdfunding stage, there is little information about the features it will offer, other than a clean and “beautiful” design and a user friendly interface.

To the point

While an encrypted app that puts user privacy at its forefront sounds like a great idea, we do have to wonder whether criminal elements would think so too. If so, we expect there could very well be a showdown of sorts between Heml.is and government agencies demanding access to their servers in the not too distant future. Watch this space.

In the meantime though, you may also want to watch this video, to get Heml.is details from the source.  

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