Secure Mobile Chat App Wins Develop for Privacy Challenge

Affiliate: ACLU of Washington
August 10, 2011 1:05 pm

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Privacy Groups Unveil Winning App

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Privacy groups announced that Gibberbot, a secure instant messaging and chat app, is the winner of the 2011 Develop for Privacy Challenge ( The groups made the announcement in a celebratory event at the DEFCON security conference on Friday.

The winning app in the inaugural Develop 4 Privacy Challenge, Gibberbot, is a secure chat and instant messaging app, created by The Guardian Project.

Gibberbot is designed to give users real control over their private communications. When you communicate via Gibberbot, only those users have access to the chat. You can chat without sharing who you’re talking to or what you’re talking about with anyone else. With Gibberbot, other parties, including the cell network, do not have access to the contents of the chat, and they cannot identify both ends of a Gibberbot communication. The open source app is currently in the alpha testing phase and other technologists are encouraged to participate in its continued development.

Privacy is a top concern for mobile users for good reason. This spring, researchers revealed that iPhones were collecting and storing location information. Michigan police recently sought information about every mobile phone near the site of a planned labor protest. Just last week, the general counsel of the National Security Agency suggested to members of Congress that the NSA might have the authority to collect the location information of American citizens inside the U.S.

By developing for privacy, technologists a help address mobile privacy concerns and encourage innovation that provides great services while giving users control of their personal information.
The organizers of the challenge are the ACLU of Northern California, the ACLU of Washington, the Tor Project, and the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner’s Office.

“This app demonstrates that advances in consumer technology don’t need to come at the expense of privacy, said Nicole Ozer, Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Director at the ACLU of Northern California and a coordinator of the National ACLU Demand Your dotRights campaign. “We’re hopeful that companies will start to bake in better privacy protections so that users don’t have to choose between using smartphones and keeping control of their private information.”

“For this competition we called upon application developers to show that privacy can be a fundamental building block in new technologies, not an afterthought. All of our finalist applications demonstrate this by providing regular users with real ways to protect their privacy while using mobile devices,” said Brian Alseth, Technology and Liberty Director for the ACLU of Washington.

“The Develop for Privacy challenge is a great way to raise awareness for principles of privacy by design at a developer and code level. Far too many developers think about putting their user in control of their data after the fact. By encouraging privacy from the start, we’re raising awareness of how to design for privacy,” said Andrew Lewman of the Tor Project.

“I applaud the winners of the Privacy Challenge, and am delighted that developers are increasingly utilizing their creativity and innovation to embed Privacy by Design into mobile applications,” said Dr. Ann Cavoukian, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Canada. “Enabling users to take control of their personal information is a high priority. I hope the need for user control will inspire the future creation of privacy tools and applications, for many years to come.”

The 2011 Develop 4 Privacy Challenge judges are leading privacy and technology experts: Jacob Appelbaum of the Tor Project, Chris Hoofnagle from University of California-Berkeley, Tadayoshi Kohno of the University of Washington, Jules Polonetsky of the Future of Privacy Forum, and Kai Rannenberg of Goethe-Universität. Applications were judged based on several criteria, including the seriousness of the privacy issue the app addresses; effectiveness, quality of user documentation, quality of source code, originality, portability, and performance.

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