Technology

The battle inside Signal


Employees worry that, should Signal fail to build policies and enforcement mechanisms to identify and remove bad actors, the fallout could bring more negative attention to encryption technologies from regulators at a time when their existence is threatened around the world.


Interviews with current and former employees, plus leaked screenshots of internal deliberations, paint a portrait of a company that is justly proud of its role in promoting privacy while also willfully dismissing concerns over the potential misuses of its service.


The app saw a surge in usage during last year’s protests for racial justice, even adding a tool to automatically blur faces in photos to help activists more safely share images of the demonstrations.


People I spoke with told me they regard the company’s exploration of cryptocurrency as risky since it could invite more bad actors onto the platform and attract regulatory scrutiny from world leaders.


Those efforts have been led by two people in particular: Marlinspike, a former head of product security at Twitter whose long career in hacking and cryptography was recently profiled in TheNew Yorker , and Acton, whose title as executive chairman of the Signal Foundation dramatically understates his involvement in the project’s day-to-day operations.


Marlinspike told me that Acton’s increasingly heavy involvement in day-to-day development was a necessity given a series of recent departures at Signal, suggesting the WhatsApp co-founder might pull back once it was more fully staffed.






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