Revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance program of the e-mails and phone records of Americans have been a boon to makers of commercial encryption programs such as Hushmail and Silent Circle. Yet unless customers bother to read these programs’ service agreements, they may not realize these companies—just like tech giants Google and Yahoo!—honor requests for customer data made by governments and courts in cases involving potential security threats.
That’s one reason a new open-source encryption standard called Bitmessage, which is out of the NSA’s reach and devilishly difficult to crack, is seeing a surge in users. New York-based developer Jonathan Warren says he had the NSA and its spying techniques very much in mind when creating the software. “If I wasn’t reasonably sure they were tracking our metadata, I wouldn’t have done it,” says the 28-year-old, who worked on Bitmessage in his spare time while employed at an educational company he declined to identify.