Blockbuster Tech

Tuesday, May. 27, 2014 11:51 am

The tech industry is dominated by deliberately misspelled products like Google and Imgur. Three Grinnellians have just joined the world of high tech language mangling with a mobile app to keep your conversations private.

“I wanted to send a message to a friend, but I didn’t want him to be able to send it to anyone because it was a lame joke,” says Ham Serunjogi ’16, an economics major. That joke led Serunjogi and Maijid Moujaled ’14, a computer science major, to create an app that seems more at home in a blockbuster than on your phone. Voyse enables users to send 30-second, encrypted voice recordings that self-destruct after they’ve been played. But what if you don’t have any impossible missions to assign or carry out? As it turns out, there are some incredibly practical uses for Voyse.

Serunjogi, Moujaled, and Patrick Triest ’15, a computer science major who recently joined the project to build an Android version of the app, offered up some scenarios: What if you don’t want to or can’t (legally) send a text? Or if you live in a developing nation, like Maijid’s home country of Ghana, where voicemail systems aren’t in use? Or if you have to send important information to someone? They didn’t mean to limit anyone, though. Voyse’s developers were interested in creating a new communication platform that people can use however they want. Although Moujaled and Triest are both members of Grinnell AppDev, this project is independent, something they can take with them after they graduate.

The app encrypts messages using AES-256 bit encryption, which the National Security Agency uses for its own top-secret data. Once they start listening to the message, though, they are subject to the same dangers that beset a typical private conversation: hidden microphones and spies, plus phones with default settings that allow carriers to access the data. After the message has been played, it is deleted from the phone and from Voyse’s server. “The file is gone, deleted in its entirety from our servers,” says Triest. 

Although no method of digital communication is perfectly secure, the team is doing everything it can to make Voyse the digital equivalent of a private conversation.

They are still working on refining the program, keeping it as simple, useful, and secure as possible. Once they’re entirely satisfied with it, they will work to expand their user base, which is already rapidly increasing.

Looking to the future, Moujaled, Serunjogi, and Triest see great potential for this app in wearable tech. They’re not sure what the future holds for this technology, but for now they’re quite content with striking back against digital permanence and providing a free, useful app for people to use in whatever way they can.