The Pirate Bay’s co-founder is crowdfunding a spy-free messaging app (video)

10 Jul 2013

Peter Sunde, who co-founded The Pirate Bay, is now on a mission to develop a truly private messaging app that will evade government surveillance programmes.

The app has been named Hemlis, which means ‘secret’ in Swedish. It will use end-to-end encryption on all messages to ensure that only the user that sends the message and the person that receives it will be able to read it. Not even those working on Hemlis will be able to read users’ messages.

The idea comes in response to the recent allegations from former CIA contractor Edward Snowden about the surveillance activities of the National Security Agency (NSA) in the US through PRISM, which it is alleged mines data from the likes of Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, as well as telecoms operators; and Tempora, an operation involving British spy agency GCHQ that is said to process data from phone calls, emails, Facebook updates and browser histories.

Paying for privacy

When released, Hemlis will be free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play, but additional features, such as the ability to send picture messages, will come at a cost. This is how the app will be supported, as there will be no revenue coming from data passed on to third parties.

Right now, though, Sunde and the Hemlis team are hoping to crowdfund the project by offering rewards like unlock codes for additional features and the ability to pre-register usernames.

Sunde appears in a YouTube video giving a peek at what Hemlis will look like and appealing for funding. “We’re interested in helping, not selling users,” he says, while others explain how the app will work.


In less than a day, the crowdfunding campaign has already topped US$34,000, while the ultimate goal is US$100,0000. The app will be developed whether or not this goal is reached, however, though no release date has been set in stone.

Hemlis UI mock-ups

UI mock-ups of the Hemlis private messaging app

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic