Why you should care
Because we can’t all afford to hire Olivia Pope to handle our scandals.
Ever since the great Paris Hilton T-Mobile Sidekick debacle in 2005, where her naughty bytes were exposed to the world, celebrities and civilians alike flew into a state of mobile hacker-phobia. While security remains a concern in today’s voyeuristic, information-obsessed world, companies who promise protection against data leaks have built an industry. One that feeds off the paranoia of those with too little time to dance with the latest security techniques.
The new Privatext app aims to reduce the risk of getting cyber-jacked by offering Mission Impossible-like features to mobile texting and image sharing. Users can send encrypted messages that are decoded by the recipient and, after the sender’s determined amount of time, deleted from both sides. Celebrities like Brad Delson of Linkin Park and Adam Richman from the Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food have already adopted the free app and, fingers crossed, it hopes to become the standard of the entertainment industry.
“Before we launched Privatext, our development team spent weeks testing our application to make sure that no messages were saved anywhere after they were deleted,” said Privatext CEO and Founder Justin Schwartz. “When our team was finished, we hired the brilliant team over at Decipher Forensics just to make a hundred percent certain we covered all of our bases. After they gave us a clean bill of health, we launched.”
Expiration can be adjusted on the fly so if one message is more sensitive than another, expiration can be tailored accordingly.
The sign-up process after downloading the app is pretty quick: The user inputs an email address and cell phone number. The app then generates a PIN like the ones used in Blackberry’s messaging system. To send a message, the user adds a contact using the other person’s PIN and waits for the recipient to approve the invitation. From there, it’s a typical chat exchange except that after anywhere from 30 seconds to 24 hours, the messages vanish. Expiration can be adjusted on the fly so if one message is more sensitive than another, expiration can be tailored accordingly. Privatext’s current interface is clean and easy to navigate, and while the color scheme leaves a bit to be desired, all in all, the app does what’s promised.
But with reports of the NSA monitoring the most random forms of apps and services like World of Warcraft and more recently Angry Birds, it wouldn’t be too far-off to imagine the same thing happening if Privatext becomes the powerhouse it’s banking on.
“Privatext is technology’s equivalent of having a face-to-face conversation,” Schwartz says. “If the NSA, or anyone, believes that all Privatexts should be monitored, it would be the same as saying that every conversation on the planet should be recorded in some form, and I don’t see that happening any time soon.”
Next week, Privatext plans to launch an updated version of the app that includes a sexier graphic redesign and navigation improvements. The company also offers their technology on an enterprise level to corporate clients and hospitals for a fee to offset giving it away to consumers. Best of all, Privatext promises not to sell user information to third parties, so there’s no need to worry about unknowingly signing up to the Nigerian scam of the week club.
Privatext is now available for iOS and Android via iTunes and Google Play.