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BitTorrent Unveils ‘NSA-Proof’ Bleep Software

(EFF/Flickr Creative Commons)

(EFF/Flickr Creative Commons)

BitTorrent has unveiled a new decentralized messaging platform specifically designed to protect user metadata and anonymity.

It’s called BitTorrent Bleep, and it marks the San Francisco-based company’s foray into the world of ‘spy-proof’ calling and texting.

The Los Angeles Times reports a preliminary test version (Pre-Alpha) of the new software is now available. Currently, users can make voice-only Internet calls and send online messages without using a central server to direct traffic.

“We never see your messages or metadata,” BitTorrent’s Jaehee Lee wrote on the company’s blog. “As far as we’re concerned, anything you say is ‘bleep’ to us.”

“With the susceptibility of communications platforms to snooping and hacking, reminders of which seem to surface every week, we realized we were uniquely qualified to build a better platform and application,” added Lee.

“Our big idea was to apply distributed technology to conversations,” Lee continued. “That means no servers required. This enables people using Bleep to make a direct, decentralized connection to someone they trust. Bleep offers the freedom to communicate without the risk of metadata being exposed.”

BitTorrent calls Bleep a “personal redaction pen controlled by you and only you.”

The company claims Bleep, which is currently available by invitation only, will be a great tool for friends who want to keep their conversations private, journalists seeking to communicate with their sources without exposing their identities or the contents of their conversations, diplomats sharing private dispatches and businesses looking to protect confidential communications from leaks and industrial espionage.

While BitTorrent is touting the privacy advantages of Bleep, some critics are wary of claims that the company’s peer-to-peer approach could really thwart the technologically superior mass surveillance capabilities of the National Security Agency (NSA) and other government intelligence agencies.

“It doesn’t pay to underestimate the NSA’s ability to monitor even well-hidden communications,” writes Los Angeles Times tech reporter Jon Healey.

The NSA’s domestic spying program, known in government documents as the “President’s Surveillance Program,” was implemented by George W. Bush following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. In the name of fighting terrorism, Bush authorized the NSA to conduct widespread surveillance activities in the United States, many of which had been illegal for decades.

Beginning last year, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is currently living in Russia, where he was granted temporary asylum after being targeted by the United States, revealed the global scope and scale of the agency’s surveillance activities. Billions of phone and electronic records, including those of world leaders and close allies as well as those of everyday Americans, have been monitored. Corporations have been targeted, and even the Pope.

The NSA has also spied on the social media accounts of an unknown number of users. It has also infiltrated popular online gaming and social communities, including World of Warcraft and Second Life, as part of its global surveillance dragnet.

President Barack Obama has repeatedly defended NSA spying, even on Americans, as a vital tool in America’s anti-terrorism arsenal. But Obama has also acknowledged that the NSA is guilty of “over-collection” of data has promised modest reforms.

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