When it comes to privacy, the shortcomings of email have been touted for years by various groups. Now an alternative seeks to use cryptography to decentralize private messaging over the internet.
In a press release issued today, New Zealand-based Beepip sets out how it has now made it possible to send emails which are guaranteed to be completely private by allowing users to communicate directly with each other and not rely on a central provider, such as Yahoo or Hotmail.
“It's like delivering a letter to your friend's mailbox yourself because you know you can't trust the postie,” it explains.
“It's like delivering a letter to your friend's mailbox yourself because you know you can't trust the postie.”
The current setup used by the majority of internet users consists of email being sent via a provider’s central server, opening up opportunities for potential tapping of private information as has been widely reported since the concept gained mass popularity.
While the issue has been tackled before using encrypted email, Beepip argues that this does not guarantee privacy and its shortcomings do not justify the cost to the user.
“…Because email always passes through a central sorting site, there are usually copies of keys that can break into your messages without your knowledge,” it explains.
“…Because email always passes through a central sorting site, there are usually copies of keys that can break into your messages without your knowledge.”
Beepip’s answer is to allow encryption of messages using the sender’s PC and send it direct to its recipient; in essence, peer-to-peer email. Added security measures include scrambling the sender and recipient’s name and address, ensuring privacy breaches are only possible if a PC is compromised.
“An interested party will only gain access to your beepips if they gain access to your computer,” Beepip’s website confirms.
Interestingly, the scrambling and sending of messages is facilitated via a proof of work system, which aside from engendering greater accountability has the novel side-effect of making spam-sending “uneconomical,” the company states.
Nonetheless, it is possible to instead transmit “broadcasts” with the service, which Beepip describes as “messages that are sent out to any group of Beepip users that are listening.”
To capitalize on the concept, Beepip, although not a free service, is encouraging prospective clients to use Bitcoin as a preferred payment method “because Beepip is all about security and privacy,” it says. The cost to download the client is currently a one-off US$38 or its Bitcoin equivalent.
While it will be interesting to see whether the cost involved makes Beepip an attractive proposition for a large number of users, for those wishing to expand the decentralized proportion of their Internet usage, the combination of formalized “completely spy-proof” communications funded by Bitcoin may well sound enticing.
However, with services such as Bitmessage already on the market for free, there will be a large clientbase which will most likely need quite some convincing.