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Silent Circle to offer secure, private iPhone operation

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Two former Navy SEALs have teamed up with cryptographers including PGP developer Phil Zimmermann to develop an iPhone app to provide military-level encryption for unlimited VoIP phone calls, texts, email and video for US$20 per month. Silent Circle debuts on the App Store next week, filled with a bag of tricks that make it virtually impossible for identity thieves -- or governments -- to tap into your conversations.

In a post about the app on Buzzfeed, blogger Russell Brandom notes that warrantless domestic wiretapping is a "matter of record by now," and that last year "1.3 million cell records were pulled by law enforcement, covering anything from stored text messages to location-tracking data."

Silent Circle uses a "portable code room" model that performs all encryption on the iPhone. The keys to unscramble the data are deleted at the completion of each call, so the call can't be decoded after the fact. Silent Circle also stores use logs with minimal user data in Canada and Switzerland, where privacy laws make it difficult for even that info -- which does not include any of the encrypted conversations -- to be released to law enforcement officials.

A feature called Burn Notice allows users to send self-destructing texts and photos to friends. Send a potentially embarrassing image or text to a pal during a drunken party, and it's erased in five minutes. Politicians and celebrities are sure to find this feature to be very helpful.

While such powerful encryption technology could be used by drug cartels or terrorists, Silent Circle is primarily targeted to individuals or companies concerned about identity or intellectual property theft.

At present, the US law that allows wiretapping -- the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act -- does not cover VoIP communications. Law enforcement agencies have been pushing for an update to the law, and any change could eventually outlaw Silent Circle. For the time being, the app will provide highly secure communications to anyone with the need.

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