In brief

  • Zoom has acquired encrypted messaging platform Keybase.
  • The deal is meant to "help make Zoom more secure."
  • Keybase users are not amused, including Bitcoiners Matt Odell and Gab CEO Andrew Torba.

In a bid to assuage privacy concerns, video conferencing giant Zoom today acquired encrypted messaging and file-sharing platform Keybase.

But Keybase users are not happy—and some are even threatening to delete their accounts.

Zoom announced the deal earlier today, signifying that the video chat service—which has seen a massive surge in use in the midst of worldwide coronavirus lockdowns—is now serious about boosting its privacy through encryption. (In other words, no more Zoom bombing.)

But the acquisition appears to have had the unintended consequence of angering a loyal Keybase user base, who bombarded Keybase co-founder Chris Coyne with angry messages over Twitter.

Some users accused Keybase, a platform which prided itself on user privacy and encryption, of selling out to a company which has faced sharp criticism for its lack thereof.

“How can I delete my account? Couldn't find the button in settings,” one user tweeted. The sentiment was roundly echoed.

 

Privacy expert and Tales from the Crypt podcast host Matt Odell runs the “the largest Bitcoin focused Keybase group,” bitcoinkeybase.com. He told Decrypt that “as a Keybase user this really sucks, but on a positive note, it's good to see end to end encryption becoming a mainstream requirement.”

Odell added that the deal seems to be “mostly an acquihire,” referring to how one company might acquire another primarily to use the skills and expertise of its staff, rather than integrating the acquired firm’s products directly. 

“Keybase devs will probably integrate some of their functionality directly into Zoom's closed source apps, while the main Keybase product gets less development resources and is eventually phased out,” Odell said. “Users should demand that Zoom makes their client open source to truly mitigate privacy concerns.”

Other critics, however, were less forgiving.

Gab CEO Andrew Torba told Decrypt that Keybase sold out for all the wrong reasons. “It’s disappointing to see Keybase sellout to a company with 700 employees in China that has openly admitted to routing data through Chinese servers among other shady activities,” he said.

Torba previously told Decrypt last year that Gab, a “free speech software company” that has come under fire for allegedly providing a safe space for hate speech, planned to fork Keybase, remove the “shitcoin” Stellar and replace it with Bitcoin.

“We are proud to offer Gab Chat, an end-to-end encrypted alternative to Keybase, and will soon be launching ON—our video conferencing alternative to Zoom,” said Torba.

News of Keybase’s acquisition comes as discontent with centralized social media and messaging platforms intensifies online, as these networks increasingly move to police their content. This has caused venture capitalist investors, such as Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, to call on entrepreneurs to build out censorship-resistant platforms for the Web3 age.

At the moment, it’s unclear what will become of Keybase following the Zoom purchase. A blog post from the Keybase team indicated that, for now, the focus is on “helping to make Zoom even more secure.” 

The company further said that “if anything changes about Keybase’s availability, our users will get plenty of notice.”

Keybase did not respond to Decrypt’s request for comment.