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Zero-Knowledge hires Mozilla's "international incident"

The Canadian firm whose Freedom software lets users conceal their identities online hires Mozilla.org's Mike Shaver in a step that signals the company's plans to move its software into open source development.

A company devoted to keeping Net users' identities under wraps is planning to take its software out in the open.

Zero-Knowledge Systems, a Canadian firm whose Freedom software lets users conceal their identities online, today said it had hired Mike Shaver, who is currently winding up his short tenure heading developer relations and evangelism for America Online's open source browser development group, Mozilla.org.

The Canadian Shaver, whose whimsical title at Mozilla was "international incident," will be chief software officer at Zero-Knowledge.

Hiring Shaver signals the company's plans to move its software into open source development, in which the underlying source code is published, volunteer developers can work on it, and people and companies can use it under the terms of a public license.

Open source development has taken off in recent years, especially since Netscape Communications launched Mozilla.org in 1998, a year prior to Netscape's acquisition by America Online. While the most successful open source development efforts--including the Apache Web server and the Linux operating system--originated among independent developers, corporations trying their hand at open source development include Hewlett-Packard and Apple Computer.

Zero-Knowledge is one of several firms offering software that lets users surf under an alias. Freedom goes a step further, however, letting users shop, chat, send email and surf the Web while covering their tracks so that Web sites, Internet service providers and law enforcement officials cannot monitor or review their activities.

Zero-Knowledge today said it would open an office in Silicon Valley, which it planned to fill with 75 new hires by March. Headquarters will remain in Montreal, where the rapidly growing firm is hiring for another 100 positions.

Last week Zero-Knowledge raised $25 million in institutional venture funding, adding to $14 million in prior funding. Investors include Platinum Venture Partners, Aragon Ventures and Strategic Acquisition Ventures. Additional venture funding is under negotiation, according to the company.