Phil Zimmerman, the creator of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption for email in the 1990s, has come to the forefront yet again as the spokesman for Silent Circle, a company planning to beta test an encrypted phone call and text message app for the iPhone and other smartphones. The app will be free when it’s released in July of this year, but the service itself will cost somewhere in the $20 per month range.
Zimmerman, long a proponent of technological solutions to civil liberties, thinks people will pay for the privacy.
“I’m not going to apologize for the cost,” he told CNET, “This is not Facebook. Our customers are customers. They’re not products. They’re not part of the inventory.”
That may well be the case, but getting consumers to pay subscription fees is notoriously difficult. Silent Circle plans to offer a solution for easily encrypted email, phone calls, and instant messaging to start, with plans for encrypted SMS in the future.
In addition to the iPhone release, Zimmerman told CNET that the company was planning to roll out an app for Mac and PC as well, but that it’s not ready, yet. They’ll focus on the mobile app first, allowing customers to communicate securely if they both have the app installed. If only one does, the information will be encrypted to Silent Circle’s servers, but not from there to a recipient’s phone.
This sounds great for most consumers needing to keep their legal communication safe and private, but it’s unlikely that lawmakers will see it the same way. It’s possible that Phil Zimmerman may yet again fall under scrutiny as he did when he released his first encryption product nearly two decades ago.
- Via Boing Boing