One app that is attracting increased interest in the wake of the Sony hack is Confide, an app that developers say is specifically designed to "allow people to digitally communicate what they had historically only been comfortable saying on the phone or in-person."
In November, Sony Pictures Entertainment suffered a hack of confidential data from its servers so massive and headline-grabbing that it quickly merited its own Wikipedia entry. Much of the earlier coverage focused on the disclosure of high-level e-mails containing derogatory comments about various Hollywood stars (most notably Angelina Jolie).
Given the fallout from those revelations (including most recently the resignation of Amy Pascal, Sony's top film executive and one of the most quoted of the hacked e-mailers), it's not surprising that there is rising interest in communication tools that minimize or eliminate the risk of hacking.
Is Confide Truly Screenshot Proof?
In its first iteration, the Confide app was essentially like Snapchat for messages -- Snapchat being the popular app for sending a photo that then immediately disappears after being viewed. When one Confide user sent a message to another Confide user, the encrypted text would appear with a series of orange rectangles covering each word. To read the message, the recipient would drag a finger across the orange blocks, revealing the words underneath. Once the user read the message, it would self-destruct.
The Confide developers said that if someone tried to take a screenshot of the message, only a single line of text would be visible. Moreover, the instant someone took a screenshot, the app notified the sender and the message automatically self-destructed.
Earlier this week, Confide 3.0 was released, enabling users to attach a variety of documents and photos to the encrypted messages. The documents can only be opened a single time, and are viewed by dragging a finger across the attachment (much like dragging a finger across a fogged shower door). "After it has been read once, it is gone forever -- no copies, no forwarding, no screenshots -- no nothing," according to the developers.
However, it remains to be seen if Confide will fall prey to some of the same types of third-party data capture techniques that have plagued Snapchat.
Confide Plans for Enterprise Mode
In the meantime, Confide developers are looking to expand the app's functionality to include business-friendly features like integration with address books, distribution lists, and more expansive cloud storage integration.
We reached out to John Brod, Confide's co-founder and president, who told us that "Confide for Business" is expected to be available for enterprises in the next 60-90 days.
Greg Sterling, VP Strategy and Insights at Local Search Association, told us he's not surprised at the growing business interest in Confide.
"In this era of perpetual hacking and security breaches and corporate espionage, the appeal of this kind of thing gains momentum. It seems extreme but not quite as extreme as it did when it initially launched," Sterling said.
The ability to share information without creating a digital trail could backfire in some settings. It could prove highly valuable, for instance, to corporate spies or disgruntled employees who want to share information without being caught -- and offer greater deniability if they are. And the use of Confide by government officials would immediately raise serious concerns about public records acts or open meeting violations.
However, Brod does not believe those will be significant issues. "In terms of corporate or shareholder accountability, we do not see this as a replacement for e-mail but a complement," he said. "We see Confide disrupting or supplementing the business phone call. When people need to have sensitive discussions, they would have made phone calls or met in person, but as the Sony hack shows, sometimes they shoot off an e-mail. Confide is a safe replacement for that."