UPDATE (3.30am PT): This article originally suggested that Mega had not previously revealed secure instant messaging plans. In fact, this had been revealed in a development roadmap published in January.
Not content with sticking two fingers up at the authorities with his Mega secure cloud storage service, larger-than-life entrepreneur Kim Dotcom is planning to release further privacy-centric services. And interestingly, in a Q&A session with the New Zealand Herald late last night, Dotcom said he intended the secure email and instant messaging services to be both military-grade and so easy to use that the user wouldn’t have to do anything to benefit from this security.
This is always the issue with security – if it requires much thought on the user’s part, it will generally fail. Dotcom, who also released a white paper on Tuesday to accuse the U.S. government of misleading New Zealand authorities while pursuing the German-born millionaire, said in the session that he wanted to “provide tools that give our users their privacy back”:
“We are working on encrypted email, IM, etc. The key to make encryption a global success is ease of use. So I am spending most of my time figuring out how I can give you encryption without you having to do anything and at the same time give you military grade privacy. You are all naked on the Internet. I like to help you put some pants on :-)”
It remains unclear what Mega is planning, technologically speaking, to achieve this kind of friction-free encryption. There are plenty of tools out there for sending encrypted emails and messages, but they tend to involve browser extensions or web forms, or paid subscriptions.
Mega’s cloud storage service has also come in for criticism by some security experts, who have pointed out that its use of so-called “convergent encryption” (in order to allow de-duplication) theoretically leaves a trace of who uploaded which file.
That extradition thing
Of course, Dotcom’s plans hinge somewhat on the ongoing extradition proceedings that he faces. The U.S. had Dotcom and some of his associates raided and arrested at the start of 2012 over allegations of copyright infringement, to do with their highly popular (and now deceased) Megaupload file-sharing service, and wants them sent over to face charges.
Since then, the case has occasionally veered into farce, with the New Zealand prime minister having to apologize for the country’s security services illegally spying on Dotcom, and a judge having to step down from the proceedings after describing the U.S. as “the enemy”.
All the while, Dotcom has maintained that Hollywood lobbyists were behind the raid and arrests. He reiterated and expanded upon these claims in the white paper released on Tuesday, verbosely entitled “Megaupload, the Copyright Lobby and the Future of Digital Rights: The United States vs You (and Kim Dotcom).”
The document highlights ties between U.S. vice president Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, the head of the Motion Picture Association of America (the MPAA, Dotcom’s bête noir), describing the whole affair as a “contract prosecution” linked to campaign contributions. It calls on the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Office of Professional Responsibility of the U.S. Department of Justice to “conduct an investigation and hearings into the conduct of the Megaupload prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice.”