Moxie Marlinspike, the founder of the popular encrypted instant messaging app Signal, has announced that he will stand down as the non-chief profit’s executive in a move that has been in the works for some months.
While a replacement is sought, executive chairman and WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton will serve as interim CEO.
Signal, which was founded in July 2014, now has over 40 million monthly users, thanks in part to a spike of new users in January 2021, when Meta-owned WhatsApp issued a controversial policy change that triggered a privacy controversy over the nature of personal data shared with its parent company.
However, the communication app’s quick growth has had some drawbacks, with staff raising concerns about the consequences of criminal actors’ possible misuse of the service, which might add fuel to ongoing discussions about reducing encryption measures to aid law enforcement investigations.
Further complicating matters is its decision to integrate MobileCoin, ostensibly a “encrypted-focused cryptocurrency,” into the app to facilitate peer-to-peer payments, a move that could put private messaging at risk by attracting regulatory scrutiny as well as serving as an open invitation for criminals to take advantage of the platform.
Last week, Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former chief security officer, told The Platformer that “Signal and WhatsApp have effectively secured end-to-end encryption from several legal attacks at the state and federal level.”
“However, adding pseudo-anonymous money transfer features dramatically expands their legal attack surface, while also increasing the risk of real-world problems (extortion, drug sales, CSAM sales) that would harm them in court, legislatures, and public opinion.”
When Signal began testing support for MobileCoin payments last year, security researcher Bruce Schneier had a similar reaction.