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The Pirate Bay co-founder wants to create Hemlis, an encrypted messaging app

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to see a renewed focus on privacy given the recent information that has leaked out about the NSA, but new, encrypted apps seem to be coming from the most unlikely places. GigaOm reports on how Peter Sunde – a co-founder on notorious torrent site The Pirate Bay – is trying to raise money to create an encrypted messaging app called Hemlis.

According to the site, Hemlis will employ end-to-end encryption so that third parties can’t pull any data from the transmission of the messages. The team behind Hemlis promises that not even they will be able to read your messages, but didn’t delve into further technical details of how exactly the service will be powered. Still, the team is building user friendly apps in the hopes of attracting as many users as possible to the service.

Hemlis won’t be funded by adverts, either. The app is currently gathering funds through crowdsourcing, with interested users able to buy app unlock codes for as little as $5. There are other “reward” tiers as well – spend $10 and you get five unlock codes, for instance.

This isn’t the first time encryption has creeped into mobile messaging either. Last month, the developers behind popular custom ROM CyanogenMod announced that they will be building messaging encryption straight into Android. Messages sent to other CyanogenMod users will be automatically encrypted, with the system falling back to regular, unencrypted messages for anyone on other devices.

Usability will ultimately be the key to the success of encrypted messaging apps. Other services like Whatsapp and Google Talk have risen to success because they’re extremely easy to use and interoperable between a huge range of devices. We’re also at the point where those services have amassed a mountain of users, so trying to get the general public to switch to an alternative like Hemlis may prove to be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Still, at least the option is there for anyone who’s seriously concerned by recent events.


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