Why the NSA-proof messenger app is no more

Why the NSA-proof messenger app is no more

Heather Parry

By Heather Parry

05 May 2015

Privacy advocates who’ve been waiting patiently for news of Hemlis, the NSA-proof messenger app from former Pirate Bay spokesman Peter Sunde, will unfortunately have to continue their wait indefinitely, as it was announced last week that the project is no more.

Sunde and two friends, Linus Olsson and Leif Högberg, began working on Hemlis two years ago in response to 2013’s revelations about the level of government spying on citizens. Initial response to the idea was favourable, with $150,000 raised via crowd-funding. However, the theft of $30,000 from the team’s bitcoin supplier was the first blow to the project – and they’ve apparently kept on coming.

“We had a lot of money, but far away [from] the same amount (we’re talking millions or billions) that our competitors had access to… They’ve had more progress and financial support so they could speed up their process to the level that they’re now really good. Better than our messaging app could become right now. Ok, they’re missing on features but they have the ability and cash to resolve those issues. And our goal was always to ensure that the everyday users would be protected, “ Sunde told Torrent Freak.

However, his association with the Pirate Bay also hindered the project.

“I personally had other issues as I got kidnapped by the Swedish government and locked up for my work with another project – The Pirate Bay. I had no way of working on anything, and I’ve had a hard time with how I personally need to handle things. This project – as well as the other projects I’m involved in – were hit massively by my absence.”

However, Sunde and his team remain dedicated to ensuring that the work they’ve done doesn’t go unused.

“We’ll release the usable parts of the code as free software with the most free license we can. It belongs to the community (and the community paid for it).”

It seems, then, that the project isn’t necessarily over. Sunde also made it clear that he had not finished campaigning for an NSA-free world.

“I’m personally trying to influence people and politicians to make sure we don’t need systems like Heml.is. We should be protected by the governments instead of trying to protect ourselves from them. It’s a multi-angle attack needed: technology, political work and transparency.”

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