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Burn Note: making private text messages as secure as possible

Burnnote is a secure private messaging system, launched out of a Brooklyn apartment.

Burn Note is a secure private messaging system, launched out of a Brooklyn apartment.

Hearing about it in the midst of the Edward Snowden affair, circumventing government surveillance immediately comes to mind. Burn Note has addressed the question directly on their blog. Burn Note is a way to privately send and receive text messages and make sure that no one but the recipient ever sees them. In fact, the recipient doesn’t see them for long. All messages self-destruct.

Download the app in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Features:

  • Automatic deletion. As soon as a recipient starts reading a message, the timer starts for its deletion. Once the time is up, the message is gone forever. Neither the sender not the recipient can stop it.
  • Second thoughts? If you send a message and regret it, you can delete it before your recipient sees it.
  • Send to anyone, via SMS or email. Your recipient doesn’t need to be a Burn Note user to receive a Burn Note. Instead, they will get an SMS or email message with a link to the site where they can see your message. SMS capability just rolled out this month.
  • Pre-deletion deletion. Before Burn Note deletes a note, it updates it as a series of zeroes. Then it deletes it. In other words, it gets double deleted.
  • Privacy Spotlight. This is probably the most interesting element of Burn Note, and that’s why the developers have filed for a patent on it. It’s meant to make screenshots of messages difficult because you can only read a part of a message at a time, through a little bubble that’s created when you hover over the message with your finger, on a touchscreen, or with your mouse, on a computer. It looks like this: 

Burnnote Privacy SpotlightFounder Jacob Robbins came to Technically Brooklyn’s Happy Hour at DUMBO’s Rebar on Aug. 20th, where he explained that he’s bootstrapping the company now out of his home in Brooklyn — it launched in January 2012 but has since launched these new features. The app is available in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

It works on iPhones and iPads, but doesn’t work on Nexus tablets yet. Adoption does not appear to have become widespread yet, though. You can also simply use it on the web, through Burnnote.com.

One of the ways in which Burn Note is able to ensure security is by keeping messages on its site. You never really send anyone a Burn Note. They get a notification that takes them to the site where they can read it.

For privacy aficionados, there’s a detailed technical explanation showing measures taken on the backend that keep messages safe. One tradeoff the developers have made: in a service outage, Burn Note could lose unread messages as the system does not write messages to disk and does not make backups.

Companies: Burn Note
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