The Economist: This message will self-destruct

ASK Nico Sell who makes use of her and Robert Statica’s Wickr secure-communication app and she can honestly say, “We don’t know who our users are.” The free iPhone and iPad app uses well-tested strong-encryption techniques to prevent anyone snooping on text messages, images and video, or voicemail exchanged between its users. Accounts are created on the device and checked with a central registry to prevent duplicate names, but no passwords or other identifying information passes to Wickr’s servers. Only Wickr users may send messages to other Wickr users, and the software can be set to allow communications only from a preset white list.

Ms Sell says that adopters are particularly fond of Wickr’s self-destruct timer, which irretrievably scrambles the transmission after a period, from seconds to days, set by the sender, and which cannot be overridden once transmitted. A sender may delete a message at any time after sending, too, removing it from the recipient’s account.

Wickr is part of a growing backlash against the culture of constant sharing and permanent archiving that Facebook, Twitter and other social networks encourage – and often expand without consulting with users. Another app, called Path, limits one’s social circle to no more than 150 people, matching “Dunbar’s number”, as evolutionary anthropologists call the limit to the how many people one can maintain stable social relationships with (which may explain why the Path’s original limit of 50 did not stand the test of time)…
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