TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Mesages That Go 'Poof' After Sending Them

Mesages That Go 'Poof' After Sending Them

Brian Bergstein, AP (
Mon, 25 Sep 2006 14:22:33 -0500

By BRIAN BERGSTEIN, AP Technology Writer

A hallmark of "Mission: Impossible" was the message that would
self-destruct after a spy played it. Now a startup communications
company promises that same level of secrecy with a Web-based messaging
system designed to leave no traces.

The VaporStream system from Void Communications LLC is envisioned as a
complement to e-mail and instant messaging, both of which leave
abundant records.

Let's say Alice wants to discuss something privately with Bob. Alice
calls up a VaporStream Web page, which is encrypted by the same method
that secures Internet commerce and banking. Then she selects Bob on
her list of VaporStream chat partners.

That brings up a new window, where she can type a message. Neither her
name nor Bob's appears anywhere. The individual messages cannot be
copied or pasted into other programs.

When she sends the message, it no longer is visible on her computer. It
goes to a server maintained by VaporStream, where it sits in a sort of
holding pattern in a temporary segment of the server's memory.

When Bob checks his VaporStream Web page, he can see that he has a
message from Alice and clicks to read it. When it is delivered, it
leaves the VaporStream server for good.

When Bob responds, Alice's original message disappears from his
computer. On and on it goes, in a conversation in which both parties
have to remember their previous lines, making VaporStream more like a
time-shifted phone conversation than an e-mail thread.

"Neither the sender nor the recipient has a full copy," said Amit Shah,
the co-founder and chief technologist.

VaporStream is scheduled to be unveiled at the influential DEMOfall tech
show in San Diego on Tuesday and become generally available in October.

Shah and co-founder Joseph Collins Jr. hope VaporStream's design and low
cost -- $40 per user annually -- will attract companies that are swamped
with the challenge of archiving business-critical e-mails and throwing
away those of a personal or inconsequential nature.

A company could tell its employees to do all of their informal
communications in VaporStream, for example. Besides PCs, VaporStream
will be available for mobile gadgets such as BlackBerrys.

That's not to say that this is a natural for the business world.

Financial services firms, for example, are likely to reject
VaporStream because of regulatory requirements governing the retention
of their electronic communications. Other companies simply might not
trust their workers enough to give them a record-less method of

"I don't typically have customers come to me and say, `I'm looking for
a messaging system where I can hide all traces of what I'm saying,'"
said Matt Brown, a senior analyst at Forrester Research. Of
VaporStream's overall prospects, he said, "I'm highly skeptical."

Companies also can set up "blacklists" and "whitelists" for their
employees that dictate who can and cannot send VaporStreams to each

However, Nancy Flynn, founder of the ePolicy Institute, which trains
companies on proper use of e-mail, said she suspects some businesses
will welcome VaporStream because it could help them better articulate
rules about when employees should and should not use e-mail.

Many e-mails have to be kept for audits, regulatory purposes or
lawsuits, but personal messages that invariably get swept into that
mix are often embarrassing, not to mention costly to store, she noted.

VaporStream isn't entirely dependent on businesses. Anyone can sign up
for $40 a year.

But secrecy-seeking criminals, take note: While the system records no
conversation logs, Collins said VaporStream will comply with
wiretapping laws. That means the authorities would not be able to
review past chats, but they could get warrants giving them the right
to put an ear to future ones.

On the Net:

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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