Silent Circle App That Cloaks Cellphones Worries Law Enforcement

Thursday, 07 Feb 2013 01:50 PM

By Alexandra Ward

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An app that makes cellphones surveillance-proof has been released to the public by a former Navy SEAL and a group of top cryptologists, a move that is drawing scrutiny from law enforcement officials who fear the technology could fall into the wrong hands.

For $20 a month, smartphone users can download the Silent Suite app, which will securely send and receive voice calls, text messages, pictures, and video under an encryption cloak. Users can even choose to set a timer to destroy photos and data from their phones and on the receiving end, according to a press release from Silent Circle, a Washington, D.C.-based private encrypted communications firm headed by ex-Navy SEAL Mike Janke.

Here's how it works: The data is wiped from the transmitting device (i.e. your cell phone) and transferred through a sophisticated peer-to-peer encryption technique to Silent Circle for handling, but the company will have no access to the encrypted files or metadata. As of now, files transfers are capped at 60MB.

Janke told the New York Post the app could "revolutionize the ease of privacy and security" and could serve as a valuable tool for corporate America in the exchange of proprietary financial data. Journalists reporting in oppressive countries like China, Iran, and Syria would also benefit from the app, Janke said.

But the law enforcement community is skeptical, and suspect the app would be more useful for drug dealers and terrorists.

"This is a detriment to law enforcement, public safety and national security, in that tracking phone calls is one of the most important investigative tools," a veteran NYPD detective commander told the Post. He declined to be identified.

Janke told the Post that his product could pose some short-term challenges but that, in the long run, the benefits outweigh the negatives.

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