TECH
07/11/2013 05:07 pm ET

Pirate Bay Founder Peter Sunde Promotes Hemlis, A Spy-Proof Text Messaging App

Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde and fellow privacy advocates Leif Högberg and Linus Olsson posted a video to YouTube this week teasing the release of a new texting app that aims to keep your messages hidden from the National Security Agency.

Citing Edward Snowden's leaks about the NSA's secret surveillance programs, Sunde and his co-founders ask the privacy-concerned to help fund their app, which will use end-to-end encryption to privatize messaging. They named the app Hemlis, the Swedish word for secret, and say it will work for the iPhone and Android phones.

"In today’s day and age we can’t do without encryption. We need to have it for all sorts of communication, something we from The Pirate Bay have said for almost a decade now,” Sunde told tech news site TorrentFreak on Wednesday.

The service will be based in Iceland, a notorious haven for content that people want to keep private. Sunde's own Pirate Bay relocated its servers there after being forced to leave Sweden in February.

The founders say the app will go well-beyond encrypting messages.

“The big difference with heml.is compared to other solutions is that we’re not just focusing on tech," Sunde told TorrentFreak. “Who runs the infrastructure? How do you know the intentions of those people? Which jurisdiction has which rules? ... Today’s internet is more and more politicized so it needs to be dealt with that way as well.”

But services like Hemlis might prove to have limited appeal. In the wake of Snowden's revelations, use of anonymized and encrypted services has risen -- but many people don't spend the time to change their habits. Lauren Hockenson of Gigaom calls Hemlis an app "aimed at a relatively small group of like-minded users," while Peter Bright and Dan Goodin of Ars Technica point out that many encryption services are ineffective because they require both the data-senders and data-receivers to agree to encryption.

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