National security doesn’t trump privacy: BitTorrent chief

Santiago, Oct 17 (IANS/EFE) The right to privacy should not be sacrificed to concerns about national security, said Eric Klinker, CEO of BitTorrent, the company that pioneered high-speed data transfer.

“I believe that individual privacy is more important than the security of each country, but obviously governments are accustomed to think differently and we respect the job they do,” he said in an interview with EFE on Friday.

Klinker travelled this week to the southern Chilean city of Concepcion for MeetLatam, which brings together prominent actors in the field of innovation, development and the globalisation of Latin America’s entrepreneurs.

Even before former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden revealed massive phone-tapping and online spying by Washington and other governments, BitTorrent was already advocating for the protection of peer-to-peer exchanges of data.

“BitTorrent has been on the side of privacy for many years,” Klinker said. “We have always believed that the Internet must be private and free and that users should not have to be afraid to use it.”

For that reason, he said, BitTorrent has long favored the development of apps and software to block surveillance, such as the firm’s instant-messaging app Bleep.

The app, which is available for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices, offers encrypted text and voice communication via BitTorrent’s P2P network, bypassing fixed servers.

“Most of the apps we currently use, such as WhatsApp, send messages to an external server, which gives a third party the chance to review content and know who are you talking to,” Klinker said.

Seeking to eliminate that third-party involvement, BitTorrent created last year an app that will replicate the original Internet and let “users communicate with each other without going through the ‘messenger boy’, that is, the server in the digital cloud”.

Bleep stores the encryption codes on the user’s own device and enables the Whisper function: sending messages that self-destruct a few seconds after they are read.

“It’s not that the Internet or the cloud are not safe, but there is always a record left of who is talking,” Klinker said. “Maybe the information is not always important, but even so, we should not be exposed.”

The company’s ultimate goal, Klinker said, is to enable people to use technology “without fear”.

In pursuit of that objective, he announced the launch early next year of BitTorrent Sync, a P2P-based software allowing the synchronisation and exchange of files among Internet-connected devices.

“It’s sort of a Dropbox, but without the need to store data in a server,” Klinker said. “We want your data to continue being yours data and simply go from one device to another.”

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