Signal chief: Monitoring the 'existential' danger of technology

Signal chief: Monitoring the ‘existential’ danger of technology

The head of crypto-messaging app Signal told AFP that the mysticism that allowed tech companies to make billions of dollars from surveillance has finally begun.

The head of crypto-messaging app Signal told AFP that the mysticism that allowed tech companies to make billions of dollars from surveillance has finally begun.

Meredith Whitaker World Health Organization Spent years working The Google Before helping to organize a strike for employees in 2018 over working conditions, she said the technology was “resident” and “bold” when she first started working in the industry in 2006.

“The idea that technology represents the pinnacle of innovation and progress has been fairly pervasive in government circles and popular culture,” she said in an interview on the sidelines of the Web Summit Technology Conference in Lisbon this week.

But lawmakers and users are now dealing with the “well-documented harms of allowing a few large companies the ability to monitor nearly every aspect of human life.”

She said people are searching now apps Such as Signal Because they appreciated “the real existential risks of putting their most intimate thoughts, locations, and networks of friends in the hands of corporate and state surveillance actors.”

Whitaker, who founded the AI ​​Now Institute in New York University in 2017 advised we Government regulators, as a prominent critic of business models built on extracting personal data for use in targeted advertising.

– You are over our weight –

She became the head of Signal two months ago and has been pushing hard for the app to become a true alternative to the likes of WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage.

“We want to make sure that everyone in the world can pick up their device, quickly open Signal, and use it to communicate with everyone else,” she said.

The odds are stacking against her company — WhatsApp, she says, has about 1,000 engineers and several thousand support staff, while her company has just 40 people in total.

The app is governed by a non-profit organization, Signal Foundation, and has just started asking users for small donations to keep it going.

The company’s David vs Goliath law was revealed in January when co-founder Moxie Marlinspike left his position as CEO, detailing just how difficult it is to keep the application going.

He wrote in a blog at the time: “I was writing all the Android code, I was writing all the server code, I was the only person connected to the service, I was facilitating the entire product development, and I was managing everyone.”

However, Signal has been downloaded more than 100 million times, and although Whitaker won’t confirm the numbers, reports last year estimated it had 40 million regular users.

And she is not afraid of the task, arguing that having talented employees helps bridge the gap with competitors.

“We have a very competent small team, and yet we weigh ourselves down in a way that is way beyond our own weight,” she said.

– ‘Gold standards’ –

Signal has a growing number of friends in the pro-privacy sector.

Email services like Proton, the search engine DuckDuckGo, and countless data analytics companies market themselves as privacy-focused apps.

Whitaker stressed that Signal was producing an open source “gold standard” encryption protocol used by WhatsApp among others.

But the goal isn’t to emulate other players on the field and push for flashy new features forever.

“Our growth ambitions are not of the same nature as those of for-profit watchdogs,” she said.

The goal instead was to create a “network effect of cryptography”.

This would help ensure that “everyone in the world has the option to communicate virtually privately without being subjected to pervasive surveillance by states and companies”.

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