Skype’s co-founder and a team composed of former engineers from the messaging platform have introduced a new version of their alternative messaging service, Wire, which promises end-to-end encryption for all conversations, including those conducted over video.
Although Wire was first launched at the end of 2014 by a 50-person start-up mostly made up of engineers, it has only just announced that encrypted video calling will be added to its service, making it one of the first companies to offer this feature.
Rivals such as Facebook's Messenger and WhatsApp, Telegram, Threema and Signal offer encryption on only parts of a message's journey or for a limited set of services, it said.
Wire is based in Switzerland and stores user communications on its own computers. It delivers privacy protections that are always on, even when callers use multiple devices, such as a phone or desktop PC simultaneously.
"We believe Wire is unique in the industry with always-on encryption for all conversations, in groups or one-to-one, with simultaneous support for multiple devices," said Wire’s chief technology officer Alan Duric.
"Everything is end-to-end encrypted: That means voice and video calls, texts, pictures, graphics - all the content you can send."
The app relies on standard, open-source encryption techniques, which allows outside technical experts to evaluate the security of its products rather than relying on trust.
This approach poses fresh challenges to law enforcers, who often seek to exploit gaps in encryption in criminal or security investigations.
Wire’s announcement follows hot on the heels of the global political debate over encryption following the legal battle between Apple and the FBI over the encrypted iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters.
The fight has had privacy and security advocates at loggerheads with each other.
Yesterday, the US Justice Department described Apple’s rhetoric over the case as "false". It said the company’s stance was “corrosive of the very institutions that are best able to safeguard our liberty and our rights: the courts, the Fourth Amendment, longstanding precedent and venerable laws and the democratically elected branches of government."
The government said Apple "deliberately raised technological barriers" to prevent execution of a warrant.
Apple has argued that the government's request would open the company to pressure from repressive regimes to provide similar assistance, but the Department questioned whether Apple is actually resisting such requests.
"For example, according to Apple's own data, China demanded information from Apple regarding over 4,000 iPhones in the first half of 2015 and Apple produced data 74 per cent of the time," prosecutors wrote.
However, NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden recently claimed that the FBI is capable of breaking into the iPhone without Apple’s assistance.