Kik Closes – FBI Requests Backdoor Built Into Facebook Messenger. Is it Time to Decentralize?

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Let’s start with a quick recap of Kik

What happened?

Kik Interactive announced late Monday that it’s shuttering the messenger app and cuttingits staff from over 100 people to just 19 employees. The company will focus its remaining resources entirely on growing its cryptocurrency, Kin, the subject of a recent lawsuit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. (cnn.com)

Kik climbed to prominence alongside other well-known messenger apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram with its distinguishing feature of being privacy-centric — amassing fans and critiques along the way. While the privacy-focused app was negatively received by a small percentage because of its vast use cases, the recent shut down was not a result of this.

“Many ICOs are being conducted illegally,” — Jay Clayton

Beginning with a Senate banking committee hearing in February 2018, ICOs were put on notice by SEC chairman Jay Clayton’s public announcement that those raising ICOs were “in the crosshairs of our enforcement provision,” and going on to say “Folks somehow got comfortable that this was new and it was okay and it was not a security, it was just some other way to raise money.”

What is the significance of these events?

Things happen. Companies fail. That’s a result of free markets with competition and innovation driving usage and general consumption. What doesn’t happen, in a purely free market-driven ecosystem anyway, is that outside forces (see: SEC) apply insurmountable pressure by levying the bottomless pit of money that is the U.S. government upon private corporations. This undue pressure is precisely what happened in the case of Kik. One could make the argument that the SEC came down hard on Kik in particular because of the privacy-centric nature of their messenger while blaming the witchhunt on failure to register their ICO properly.

Well, the United States Government (or any other world superpower for that matter) isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So where does that leave us?

Decentralization — or the pursuit of it.

Decentralization — the dispersion or distribution of functions and powers (Merriam Webster)

Okay. So powers and functions are dispersed over a wide swath of individuals and networks. How does that stop government agencies from coming down on projects? Well, with the decentralization of power and function comes the dispersion of liability, which in the case of Kik, could have helped. In their case, for instance, they face what seems to be in an impossible uphill battle that will undoubtedly include fines, sanctions, and the like. Were there no central governing body (Kik Interactive) to come down on, there wouldn’t have been an immediate need to divert funding away from their messenger app, slash nearly 90% of their workforce, and ultimately close what was a viable private messenger app that allowed for innumerable benefits to individuals across the globe, particularly those who live under oppressive governments.

FBI calls for “backdoors” into both applications like Facebook Messenger and personal devices.

The Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (A U.S. criminal investigation agency focused on crime at the federal level) have formally brought a case against Facebook in the California court systems.

The latest of these attempts, according to cyber security organization experts from the International Institute of Cyber Security, comes from a case presented by the Department of Justice against Facebook in the Federal Court of California, which aims to force Facebook to create a specially crafted version of its Messenger app, so the FBI can listen to a suspect’s voice conversations. (SecurityNewspaper.com)

This isn’t the first time a United States government agency has sought a backdoor to gain access to personal and private information. For instance, Apple faced similar requests to build a specialized version of its operating system after the San Bernandino mass shooter was found to have a locked iPhone 5c on his person. This version of iOS would allow access to any iPhone confiscated by The Bureau. Apple declined, sighting personal privacy (a big win for its userbase). Ultimately the FBI dropped the case after an external contractor helped them to access the device. The methods by which this happened are uncertain, but tools like GrayKey, have taken advantage of a vulnerability to gain access via a brute force password guessing scheme. This vulnerability has been since patched by Apple.

This brings us back to the point of decentralization. In this particular case, Apple was fortunate to have had the case dropped, and even if it hadn’t been, they happen to be the most financially liquid company in the history of man and thus have the resources to fight back. Not every company will be positioned as such. This should be considered.


A quick plug for a decentralized project that aims to move us toward a more decentralized world

ODIN.Chat

ODIN wants you to own your conversation. Having realized the possibility for an impending doomsday scenario where massive leaks of personal data lead to real-world consequences, ODIN Blockchain decided to do something about it and built ODIN.Chat, a blockchain-powered, secure messenger with the end user’s privacy in mind.

When ODIN Blockchain decided to build a free messenger, we put a lot of thought into what free means not just to us, but to the userbase too. Here’s a list of things we don’t ask for when you use our product: your name, your date of birth, your address, we don’t even ask for your email address, all of which other companies see as revenue when you sign up. We don’t even ask you to create a username and risk being linked to other accounts that might share certain features of that name. It truly is private. We might not be changing the world by ourselves, but we certainly hope to be apart of the group that does.

Where do I find out more about ODIN?

Reddit

Published by Christopher Reeder

Making technology easier to understand.

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