Voice and Video Calls

Are Merlin calls encrypted?

Yes, all Merlin calls are encrypted, end-to-end. Voice data is encrypted right after it enters the microphone of the sender's device, and decrypted only just an instant before it's played through the speakers or headset of the recipient's device. Video and screen-sharing data is encrypted at a frame rate that's adjusted to suit the throughput of the sender's internet connection. Note that reasonably good broadband is needed for successful video or screen-sharing on any such system, not just Merlin.

Are voice calls traceable?

No. Voice calls use the Kahuna Network to connect the parties to a call. Internally, Kahuna relays call traffic from server to server to server in a complex and ever-changing chain, and without using the IP addresses of the parties to the call, except on the 'end nodes'. Therefore it is impossible for a party to a call to determine the IP address of any other party to a call. And because of that, we are also unable to track who is talking to whom; all we know is how many bytes of data a given user is consuming (so we can debit their Kahuna Credits); we can tell nothing about the nature of the data being sent or received.

How can I tell if my friend is on line?

Simply look in Merlin's activity manager (which we call 'Trax') to see if the person is online. You can also open their contact window. On large-screen devices, Trax is always displayed (look on the right side of Merlin's main window). On small screen devices, open Trax by clicking or tapping on the Trax icon.

Can anyone else listen to my voice calls?

No. Only you and the other parties to a call have the decryption keys, which change frequently. We have no keys and therefore we have no ability to disclose them, and no ability to eavesdrop or understand the content of any call, nor to empower anyone else to do so, full stop.

Can I record a Merlin voice call?

Yes, but only if everyone in that call has given their permission by activating 'Grant Recording Permission'. All recordings made by Merlin are encrypted on the device(s) making the recording.

Whenever any party to a conversation wants to record a call, permission is asked of every party to the call – no recording can begin until ALL parties to the call allow it. Whenever a call is being recorded a bold red recording icon is displayed to all parties to the call. Clicking on it will show who is recording (more than one person may be recording at a time). If screen-sharing or video is being received, it is also synchronously recorded and encrypted, provided the device has sufficient speed and resources to do so.

Do I need to pay for calling?

Yes. Merlin uses the secure Kahuna Network to make voice calls, so you need Kahuna Credits to place or receive calls. As a rough approximation, voice-quality duplex (two-way) calls consume a little less than half a megabyte of encrypted data per minute. If you use Merlin voice for an average of two hours per day, seven days a week, in a month you will consume 1.6 gigabytes of Kahuna Credit. A Kahuna Credit of 32GB costs $25. That's enough for more than a year of average use – about two bucks a month. Kahuna Credits don't expire, so there's no need to worry about that.

Why should I pay when I can use products like Skype for free?

It's a cliché, but it's also true: you get what you pay for. As has been pointed out so eloquently, "If you are not paying for the product, you are the product". If that doesn't bother you, go right ahead and use a free calling system. But if you want genuine security and anonymity – in short, if you want the same privacy on the phone that you have on the toilet – you have to pay a little for it. Most secure voice solutions cost hundreds of dollars a year – ours is a buck or two a month.

Can I make conference calls?

Yes, you can add as many people to a call as you like. As a practical matter, we have found that voice calls get confusing and difficult to manage when there are more than six or eight parties to the call, unless it's in a presentation format in which only one person is doing most of the talking.

Does Merlin also have video and screen-sharing?

Yes, Merlin has full-featured webcam and screen-sharing. Please be aware that reasonably good broadband is needed for successful video or screen-sharing on any system, not just Merlin.

Does Merlin have a 'Remote Control' or 'Remote Access' feature?

No. The ability to control or modify another person's device in any way, however slight or benign, would violate our privacy policy and core values. Of course, we could add such a feature as an 'opt-in' service, and make it really secure, but it's just too easy for someone to forget they've granted control to a remote person. Put simply, once someone else is 'in' your device, if you walk away even for a moment, say just to go to the toilet, the opportunity for abuse exists. That would violate everything we stand for.

Will multi-party video chats cost extra?

No. But each party to the call must have enough Kahuna Credit to participate.

Is it possible to record a call without other people being aware?

Not within Merlin. However, it is possible for someone to use third-party audio software to record anything that plays through their device's audio system, including music or voice calls made using any voice program, including Merlin. It's also possible to attach a manual recorder to the audio output of a device and record everything, or just hold a hand-held recorder next the device's speakers or headset. Software is generally unable to detect this. Note that in many jurisdictions the recording of a call without the explicit permission of all parties to it is illegal.

Can I prevent others in a Merlin call from recording it?

Yes and no. You can prevent anyone from using Merlin itself to record it simply by turning off 'Grant Recording Permission', either as a general setting or on a per-call basis: When any party to a call denies permission to record, then no party to that call can activate or continue recording.

However, please remember that in order for you to be able to hear what the other person is saying, Merlin must decrypt the encrypted data stream, and then play it through your device's speakers or headset, where other apps or external recording equipment can be used. So although turning off record permission in Merlin prevents anyone in a call from using Merlin to record the call, people can still use other apps or built-in device recording features, or even just an external recorder, to record the call. The same is true for the video feed. Heck, you can even make screen-captures using the legacy 'print screen' key still found on many devices (look for a key labeled 'prt sc').

Isn't Merlin Voice a great way for criminals to communicate?

Merlin Voice is a great way for anyone to communicate, and unfortunately that includes criminals. It's also true that cars are a great way for criminals to travel, and spreadsheets are a great way to organize complex criminal activity. Phone scramblers are a great way to talk in secret. Amateur ('ham') radio is a great way for criminals to communicate anonymously over short or very long distances, especially when used with hardware encryption devices. So are encrypted or coded emails, or just snail mail (although presumably they'd use something better than 'invisible ink'). And there are a million other ways, including TOR Chat, steganography or encoding in messages published publicly (the 'classified' ads one sees in the movies), CB radios or walkie-talkies, overnight package or letter delivery services, microdots printed on paper, semaphores of all kinds, or just messengers. Most of these are also hard to discover and difficult or impossible to trace, monitor or crack.

It's not the tool that matters.

We have no ability to listen to a voice call, and because our services can be purchased anonymously, we have no ability to determine who in the real world is talking to each other. Consequently, we can't grant that ability to any other party – it's simply not possible. However, if we are presented with credible evidence (by law enforcement, for example) that someone is using our products in violation of our Terms of Service which include prohibiting any sort of criminal activity – we will immediately exercise our right to cancel that user's Kahuna ID. Count on it.