The creators of Signal, the encrypted messaging app widely used throughout the security community—as well as by journalists, activists, and others seeking to stymie government surveillance—announced on Wednesday a major shift to the organisation’s makeup.
With the aid of WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, Signal has launched The Signal Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at creating the next generation of open-source privacy technology. In a joint statement, Moxie Marlinspike, the founder of Open Whisper System, the organisation under which Signal was developed, said the plan was to “broaden Signal’s mission of making private communication accessible and ubiquitous.”
Further, Marlinspike announced that Acton had injected $50 million (£36 million) of his own money into the nonprofit. “This means reduced uncertainty on the path to sustainability, and the strengthening of our long-term goals and values,” he said. Marlinspike said the addition of Acton brought “an incredibly talented engineer and visionary with decades of experience building successful products” to Signal’s team.
“Signal has always been a collaborative project with a strong community, and we will continue to learn from our users and experiment together.”
A computer programmer and Stanford alumnus, Acton announced in September that he was departing WhatsApp, which Facebook acquired for $19 billion (£14 billion) in 2014.
Acton, who will serve as the nonprofit’s chief executive, wrote that his goal was to make the Signal Foundation self-sustaining and that he shared Marlinspike’s belief that a nonprofit was the best vehicle to achieve it. “We believe there is an opportunity to act in the public interest and make a meaningful contribution to society by building sustainable technology that respects users and does not rely on the commoditisation of personal data,” Acton wrote. “Signal has always been a collaborative project with a strong community, and we will continue to learn from our users and experiment together.”
In closing, Acton said the Signal Foundation was focused on adding to Signal’s team and improving the app, but that in the long-term the foundation would seek to “provide multiple offerings that align with our core mission.”
In his message, Marlinspike also thanked the nonprofit Freedom of the Press Foundation, which he said Signal had relied on heavily over the years as fiscal sponsor.
Signal touts endorsements from, among others, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and renowned cryptographer Matt Green of Johns Hopkins University. The app is available for Android, iPhone, and Desktop.