Kim Dotcom Targets Skype With Encrypted Chat Rival

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Fugitive millionaire delivers on promise of encrypted rival to Skype to stop government snoops

Kim Dotcom, the charismatic founder of Megaupload who is still wanted by US authorities for copyright infringement and money laundering, has launched a chat rival to Skype.

The move was announced on Twitter, when he tweeted “We are releasing #MegaChat beta step by step. Starting with video calling today. Text chat & video conferencing will follow soon.”

Rival

Kim DotcomKim Dotcom first mooted the idea of a Skypre competitor back in February 2013 after he claimed that US-based services such as Gmail, iCloud and Skype are legally required to provide “secret & untraceable NSA backdoors to all your data”.

He also revealed that his Mega website would offer encrypted email, video and communication services of its own.

Today’s announcement of MegaChat delivers on that promise, which is promoted as a secure “Skype killer” service that offers end-to-end encryption.

Dotcom has questioned the privacy of people’s data using any of these American services ever since the revelations from Edward Snowden that US-based companies had to hand over data to intelligence agencies such as the NSA upon request.

MegaChat will be based in New Zealand, and according to the Guardian, does not need any software to run, instead operating inside a browser. Plug-ins for Google’s Chrome and Firefox are available for “faster loading and added resilience against attacks”.

The beta of MegaChat initially offers video-calling, but Dotcom has also promised encrypted video conferencing, file sharing, email and text chat would be rolled out at a later stage. He has also offered a bounty for any security flaws found by independent researchers.

Encryption Debate

The arrival of this service comes at an interesting type in the encrypted data debate.

The European Union wants tech companies and ISPs to be obliged to share encryption keys with police and intelligence agencies to help them fight terrorism. This was proposed by the European Union’s Counter-Terrorism Coordinator this week.

Prior to that, British Prime Minister David Cameron revealed that the government wants powers to allow spies to access the content of encrypted communications in fight against terror.

Those laws could incorporate some parts of the controversial Communications Data Bill, also known as the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’, which was blocked by the Conservatives’ Liberal Democrat coalition partners in 2012 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).

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