If the FBI is concerned about encryption on the iPhone, their heads will spin over the new end-to-end encryption service launched by a group of former Skype technologists. Dubbed Wire, the technology supposedly makes it impossible for corporations, governments, or even recipients to store data and metadata.
Wire will not be ad-supported and data will not be sold to outside companies for advertising or any other purposes. Other competitors such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Telegraph already offer some of their services up in encrypted forms, but Wire is the first to do so across nearly all mediums: voice calls, video calls, text, gifs, emojis etc.
On one hand, there are those who think corporations and the government are too deeply embedded in in the personal information of Internet users and that there should be more regulations and rules to protect users.
“Our personal and professional online communications should not be part of this economy,” the company’s website reads. “In the physical world we talk with each other directly. We can lower our voices or close a door to share private thoughts. In the online world we should be able to communicate directly without passing our private communications through these corporate data mines.”
On the other hand, there are those, especially among the national defense agencies, that feel they need a certain level of access in order to protect the country from real external and internal terrorist threats or other security risks. If the company’s claims are true, it could become a tool for those who intend to inflict harm on others.
Wire is based in Switzerland and compliant with Swiss and EU data protection laws. However, its operations extend to users in the U.S., which means U.S. regulators are going to get in the game.
Wire offers detailed descriptions of its encryption service through a plethora of fancy acronyms, two white papers on privacy and security, and open source code under a general public license. But unless you’re deeply into encryption code, none of that will make much sense.
Perhaps more importantly for consumers, the app looks really nice and first timers will be none the wiser to the security apparatus — especially if they don’t care. Both the OSX app and web platform are far cleaner and easier to grasp than Skype. Photos and gifs have big displays and the user interface is pretty bare bones, just a left bar for your contacts and a feed of your conversations.
Setup is easy too. It’s odd to have to set up an account via email address these days, rather than simply hit the “sign in with Facebook” button. Simply give a user name and email and you’re off to secure messaging. You’ll just have to invite a lot of friends because, well, no one uses it yet.
The app uses a bot to guide users through the basics of how to make a call, post a gif, and chat with friends, in a way that seems slightly reminiscent of features in Facebook M, the social network’s answer to Siri and Google Now. The app was launched nearly 15 months ago, but this new encryption feature, as well as the financial backing of Skype founder Janis Friis make it suddenly ver relevant.