Curious press release from phone encryption service

Seecrypt costs $3 a month and allows subscribers to make encrypted phone calls to each other. It promises a "100% protected network through encryption between two callers anywhere in the world." Sounds interesting and useful for keeping government snoops away. However, the press release issued today tells a somewhat different story:

“Seecrypt will pro-actively assist law enforcement agencies to prevent criminal activity being carried out using this encryption service. Our technology is designed to restore privacy rights for legitimate usage," stated Seecrypt CEO Mornay Walters. “Seecrypt's Privacy Network has been designed so that it can terminate access rights immediately for any individual identified by law enforcement or other governmental authorities as suspected of improper use.”

Does that mean that if someone is using Seecrypt and the government starts investigating them the service simply shuts off? If so, it's a great way for criminals to learn that they are under investigation.

Or does it mean that Seecrypt will let the suspect make calls without letting them know that the encryption has been disabled?

Or, does it mean Seecrypt will do something else that I can't think of? I emailed SeeCrypt to find out and will share my answer when I get it.

More from the press release:

Seecrypt advisor and former assistant director, U.S. Secret Service, Anthony Chapa added, “Seecrypt’s impressive technology provides a new level of protection to company executives and individual citizen’s privacy rights, while not compromising international and U.S. investigative efforts surrounding serious criminal activity. There are techniques that law enforcement and intelligence organizations have available, and with the help of Seecrypt would not impede their mission.”

Given the Obama administration's alarming record of surveillance, I think any investigative journalists thinking of using this service should make sure they really are "100% protected."

UPDATE: SeeCrypt's response: "In response to your email and on background: In conjunction with law enforcement, we have the option to terminate a user's access rights." SeeCrypt should market itself as a service that lets you find out if you are under government surveillance!


  1. So…what’s their definition of “serious criminal activity”?  Is it the same as Mexico’s?  Iran’s?  Which “law enforcement agencies ” will they “pro-actively assist”?  The same that take SD cards & cameras without warrants?  Or the ones that torture citizens that speak out against the ruling party?

  2. I just wonder how rapidly it becomes a matter of “ah you’re encrypting your phone, must have something to hide, better investigate”.

  3. What a bunch of bozos.   “Our system will secure your conversation, unless someone actually wants to eavesdrop, in which case we will blow off the entire point of our service and let them do whatever…”

    Great, no thanks.

  4. Is this a United States based telecommunications provider? Because, under The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) of 1994, it should be clear that “a telecommunications carrier [has a] duty to cooperate in the interception of communications for Law Enforcement purposes, and for other purposes.”

    1. From the website:

      “The Development and Network operations are located in Pretoria, South Africa. Regional presence include the US, Middle East and Australia.”

        1. That’s the fun part, they leave it completely unstated. Could be “we will accept phone calls from potential clients in these areas” to “we have local offices and can be physically present for depositions”. Or anything, really.

  5. I suspect many such services are actually run by intelligence services to fish for those people they care about the most – people who actually need encryption.

  6. Back in the Cypherpunk days we referred to these sort of services as “GATK”. Government Access To Keys. They are encrypted, but the wrong people can decrypt them.

  7. There’s a whole bunch of chemical innovations which might be brought to bear upon the discouragement of undesirable uses. For instance, an agent might be added to banknotes to generate a rapid exothermic reaction when in contact with cocaine. Or the fabric used to construct safety nets might be transformed into razor-sharp carbon nanotubes when a trapeze artist is suspected of tax-evasion.

  8. If “proactive” means what I think, then Seecrypt is promising they themselves will listen in , and call the cops when they hear something incriminating. Merely responding to every warrant, or warrantless request, well that’s merely “reactive,” right?

  9. So they can listen in everything and they will decide which information is “public” and which information can be confidential… The other interesting thing is that the price is too low. I don’t think that anybody can operate a service like that from 3 dollars/months… If you listen to me the only way to talk securely is to find an encryption solution from a non USA telecom provider…

  10. You are all missing the point.. My husband knows the company that made this app.  Right now you can be bugged on everyday calls anyway. The main advantage of this app is that you can call overseas using next to no data at 3$ a month. It’s fantastic, I call my husband as he travels for work weekly, it’s clear, quick and works perfectly on wifi, 3G etc. We save a fortune on cell to cell toll calls and it hardly uses any battery, unlike skype, FaceTime, viber etc. Type the promo code M8R8 in when you download the app and you get 6months free instead of 3 months.

  11. it’s not a US telecom provider, it is operates out of South Africa, and registered in the Caymen Islands where Seecrypt is compliant with the laws. Seecrypt itself can’t listen to the phone conversations as the technology is not desgined in that way… Try it, io downloaded it and its brilliant. I am not a spy nor a villain, just a person who would like to have unlimited international calls wherever i am at $3/month. Well now it’s free for a year..

    1. Do you have any connection to SeeCrypt other than as a (presumably) satisfied customer? By this I mean employee, investor, or other paid promotion agent?

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