The Wall Street Journal just discovered what some of us have known for a long time: Moxie Marlinspike is really cool, and the work he does is important.
So much so that the governments of the United States and the UK are frightened by apps like the ones Moxie develops.
The security researcher created an encryption program that scrambles messages until they reach the intended reader, to protect the privacy of both parties. The beauty of this app is its simplicity. Facebook/WhatsApp made it a standard feature for most of WhatsApp's 800 million users.
How well does it work?
The software is effective enough to alarm governments. Earlier this year, shortly after WhatsApp adopted it, British Prime Minister David Cameron called protected-messaging apps a "safe space" for terrorists. The following week, President Barack Obama called them "a problem."
That makes the lanky, dreadlocked and intensely private coder a central figure in an escalating debate about government and commercial surveillance. In a research paper released Tuesday, 15 prominent technologists cited three programs relying on Mr. Marlinspike's code as options for shielding communications.
His encrypted texting and calling app, Signal, has come up in White House meetings, says an attendee. Speaking via video link last year as part of a panel on surveillance, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked troves of U.S. spying secrets, urged listeners to use "anything" that Mr. Marlinspike releases.