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!
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects