SIMSme to compete with WhatsApp

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iol scitech june 27 sa whatsapp illus .

Frankfurt - Deutsche Post is starting a smartphone messenger service designed to be especially secure, focused on data privacy, and, if all goes well, a competitor to popular messaging service WhatsApp.

The SIMSme app lets iPhone or Android smartphone users send text messages, images, videos, contacts and information about one's location. Messages are automatically encrypted when sent and can only be decrypted by the recipient.

This end-to-end encryption creates a higher form of data security, a company spokesperson told dpa. “All data is stored exclusively on servers in Germany and are deleted once they are delivered to the recipient.”

The move is seen as a clear attempt to draw some market share from WhatsApp, recently purchased by US social media giant Facebook, which also has its Facebook Messenger system.

But it's not the only one touting exceptionally high security for messaging. There's also Swiss firm Threema as well as Blackberry's Messenger BBM service, available for both iOS and Android.

SIMSme is free, though using the function to automatically delete messages after a certain period costs an extra 89 euro cents (about R10). But the first million people to download the app can even get that function for free.

All text messages will be secured with the AES-256 standard, promises Deutche Post. And when the messages are sent to the SIMSMe server, they will be SSL encrypted.

There's also no requirement to sign off on any terms and conditions stating that it's OK for contents to be redistributed. “With SIMSme, the user retains all rights,” Marco Hauprich, the senior vice president for Mobile & New Media at Deutsche Post told dpa.

However, the app does need to be able to access a phone's contact list to work, so it can anonymize and encrypt messages in accordance with the user list. “Of course, the telephone book won't be stored on our servers,” Deutsche Post promises.

The plan is to build up a user base for Deutsche Post with the free app. That's why the company's 480 000 employees worldwide are being urged to get their friends and family to sign up.

If it became widespread, SIMSme could then attract interest from banks, perhaps for secure communication with clients. It could also play a role in confidential communications between employees of the same company. It would only be building upon services the company already offers: Only a few days before SIMSme came out, Deutsche Post announced a service for encrypted phone calls. - Sapa-dpa

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