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How NSA snooping secures profits for famed privacy pro (Q&A)

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Government surveillance has been a business boon for PGP creator Phil Zimmermann, whose company Silent Circle counts SEALs and the CIA as clients. Plus: why encryption needs a "Spartacus" moment.





In a double dose of irony, the National Security Agency's prying has given a big helping hand to Phil Zimmermann's business, Silent Circle.

The first irony is that Zimmermann was the very person the US federal government fought with in the 1990s over the release of the software called PGP, short for Pretty Good Privacy, which made encryption much easier to use. The second irony is that he's now president and co-founder of Silent Circle, a company that seeks to profit from making it harder for the NSA or anybody else to find out what people are saying on phone calls, with text messages, and over Internet video chat.

Recent revelations about the NSA gathering information using data taps on the Internet, phone call metadata, encryption cracking, and subpoenas of large Internet companies has helped Silent Circle's business. "It's been just huge," Zimmermann said in interview.

It's also been sobering. Silent Circle scrapped its Silent Mail product in August after concluding that even without government subpoenas, e-mail inherently broadcasts lots of private information.

Silent Circle would be hard to classify as a government adversary, though. US, UK, and Canadian government and military organizations including the CIA are customers, Zimmermann said, and company co-founder Mike Janke is a former US Navy SEAL sniper.


OP comment: This is interesting. wow

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