Over the past couple of years, industry interest in communications technology has really grown. Where once only a few chat applications, like AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger, ruled the internet, today, there is a huge selection to choose from. But, with interest comes acquisitions, and this week another platform has gone to one of the big guys, with Amazon acquiring Wickr. The company announced,
We are pleased to share that Wickr has been acquired by Amazon and is now part of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) team. We're proud to have created highly trusted, secure communication solutions for messaging, video conferencing, file sharing, and more. From our founding ten years ago, we have grown to serve organizations across a wide range of industries, all over the world. Together with AWS, we look forward to taking our solutions to the next level for our customers and partners.
For those who don't know, Wickr is an encrypted messaging platform with several divergent user groups. Because it's end-to-end encrypted, the platform has become really popular among security agencies within governments, including the United States National Security Agency (NSA), whose secrecy knows little bounds.
This usage within the top levels of government is where Amazon's interest comes in. The company has tried hard to break into the government space, especially with its AWS offerings, but has often been thwarted by Microsoft's Azure. By buying their way into the government's existing vendor list, they are hoping to raise their position.
On the other hand, Wickr is also popular within the criminal world - for the same reasons that it's popular with the NSA. End-to-end encryption for text, voice, and video allows for the NSA to communicate privately, but it also allows for criminals to communicate privately. This concern has been high on the government's hit-list, with an active campaign to break encryption. So, the acquisition could potentially backfire, and Amazon might lose government contracts because of Wickr's encryption. It may also blackmail the company, requiring it to break the strength of the encryption in order to receive AWS contracts.
Another issue that Amazon should be considering is the government's renewed focus on digital antitrust. As it is, Amazon and other tech companies are being investigated for their acquisitions and in-house prioritization.