The time has come to tell you about why we are developing a new messenger that we’ve called Aegees. You might think there is an ample supply of messaging applications already on the market offering all sorts of the features you might want. So, why bother with making yet another? The answer is one simple word — security!
Our goal is to develop a messaging app that gives users better personal protection than anything else on the market. Perhaps it’s not just a coincidence that our product is planned for completion in 2019, the 70th anniversary year of George Orwell’s iconic novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, the dystopian classic in which every citizen is under constant surveillance by Big Brother and the chilling Thought Police.
Now, we all know how prophetic Orwell’s writing turned out to be. As impossible as it may once have seemed, much that he described has indeed become at least a part of our modern reality. Big Brother truly is watching us at all times through our smartphones and apps. It would be great if we could just be dismissed as exaggerating pessimists but sadly, the evidence says otherwise. More than a few events concerning personal data protection have shaken the world recently.
This August, to satisfy the requirement of its new owner, Facebook, WhatsApp announced its decision to drop end-to-end encryption for messages. Mark Zuckerberg explained that as an American company, Facebook is obliged to cooperate with US security and law enforcement agencies. In 2017, The Independent wrote that the CIA was able to bypass encryption on WhatsApp, according to documents published by WikiLeaks.
In June, Fortune wrote about Facebook sharing an excessive amount of user data with mobile device manufacturers, that was just months after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. During the 2016 US presidential race, Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis firm linked to President Donald Trump’s campaign, exploited weaknesses in Facebook’s security and accessed 50 million people’s personal information without authorization.
In 2014, Тhe Guardian published a report about Facebook’s scandalous 2012 emotion control experiment during which the company managed to influence users’ mood by manipulating what they saw in their newsfeeds. No user was ever made aware that they were taking part in an experiment.
There are also some serious security concerns around personal data in Google and Apple products. In 2013, a US federal judge ordered Google to give the FBI private user data without a warrant. This year, the same compliance demands were made of Apple and other US IT companies.
New amendments to the Telecommunications Act require IT companies in the US to provide the US government and its security agents with unfettered access to confidential user data. More than that, a recent report by Reutersindicates that Apple users’ personal data may wind up being easily accessible to the Chinese authorities because Apple’s new data center in China will have to comply with local laws.
These are just a few examples of high-profile cases involving major IT corporations that choose to obey state regulators and sacrifice user safety on the altar of commercial interest. But the scope of what is happening today is much more significant. No messaging application, mobile device or social network account is safe. There are server vulnerabilities, constant spyware attacks and operating system loopholes that are only patched by security updates very slowly.
Today, an army of algorithms is continually browsing the World Wide Web trawling for any personal user data they can get their digital fingers on, such as phone numbers, locations, birthdates, information about relatives and friends, any scrap of detail they can find. They analyze friend and follower lists on social networks, building up quite detailed connection diagrams and lists of interests that ultimately allow predicting a user’s behavior with a high degree of accuracy. All that information is then ‘crunched’ by neural networks in powerful data centers — only to be rehashed, recycled and re-exploited for marketing and/or political purposes. As if that wasn’t bad enough, user agreements exist to make it all perfectly legal!
So to a large extent, thanks to this persistent global digital surveillance, the sheer quantity of data in the world is growing exponentially and predicted to reach 160 ZettaByte by 2025. You may already know the story of the hummingbird and the fire. One day, a terrible fire broke out in the forest and the animals fled in terror from their homes, all trying to escape with their lives. But one little hummingbird was alone in deciding to do something about the fire. It flew to the nearest stream, picked up a drop of water and dropped it into the flames. That little bird did the same thing over and over again. The other animals called out to the hummingbird, ‘Why waste your time? You’re too little, and the fire is so big.”
The little hummingbird replied, “I’m doing what I can”.
Ad we are making Aegees, a fully protected and secure messaging application.
One final and important detail to mention is that we will never host private channels. Any information that might be linked to terrorism, human trafficking, child pornography, drugs and other criminal activities will be tracked and banned. We will develop efficient collaborative tools for other agencies, both governmental and non-governmental that are combating illegal content. With Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four in mind, we say that in a world with Aegees, no Thought Police will stand a chance. Perhaps that is the best answer to the question, why did we decide to develop “one more messenger?”