Wickr's top-secret messages take on Facebook

If you're participating in the social web—sharing with friends on Facebook or messaging with Whatsapp—Wickr CEO Nico Sell says you're opening yourself up to privacy hacks.

Those companies collect data and sell it, and because they're collecting that data, you're really never secure, she said.

"I've been educated by hackers my whole life, and every database will be breached," says Sell, a hacker and an organizer of the world's largest annual hacker conference, Defcon. "That's why we built our system with a zero-knowledge system so our servers have nothing in them to be stolen."

Privacy-obsessed Sell founded Wickr, a super-secure messaging system—messages self-destruct (totally self-destruct, not like Snapchat, she says)—with intention of overhauling social media and making information secure.

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Sell wants Wicker to "win on features alone—we've got self-destructing messages. That's really unique today, just us and Snapchat, and I think the security and privacy are just the loyalty factor and that's why we keep consumers and why they stay with us long-term."

She says the app has more features than Instagram, but is distinguished because "we're not sitting in the middle listening to all your conversations."

Sell warns that Facebook and other social media tools, even if they feel like they're designed for private interactions, are actually for public information. According to her, if you've typed in your birthdate, your home address, and your place of birth into different websites, you're giving hackers what they need to steal your identity. (She wears sunglasses constantly when she's in public to block facial-identity software.) She says that people often share their location via Twitter and Facebook without even realizing it.

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So what's Wickr's business model if she isn't retaining data for advertisers? Sell says she expects about 4 persent of the app's power users to pay for premium services. She's also working with commodities platform CME Group, an investor in her company, to help secure financial transactions. Another investor in Wickr is early Facebook backer Jim Breyer.