Philip Zimmermann

One of the "Top 50 Tech Visionaries of the last 50 years" - PC World
Inducted into the Internet Society's Internet Hall of Fame


Picture of Phil

Creator of PGP

Background

Philip R. Zimmermann is the creator of Pretty Good Privacy, an email encryption software package. Originally designed as a human rights tool, PGP was published for free on the Internet in 1991. This made Zimmermann the target of a three-year criminal investigation, because the government held that US export restrictions for cryptographic software were violated when PGP spread worldwide. Despite the lack of funding, the lack of any paid staff, the lack of a company to stand behind it, and despite government persecution, PGP nonetheless became the most widely used email encryption software in the world. After the government dropped its case in early 1996, Zimmermann founded PGP Inc. That company was acquired by Network Associates Inc (NAI) in 1997. In 2002 PGP was acquired from NAI by a new company called PGP Corporation, where Zimmermann served as special advisor and consultant until its acquisition by Symantec in 2010. Since 2004, his focus has been on secure telephony for the Internet, developing the ZRTP protocol and creating products that use it, including Silent Phone and Zfone. Zimmermann is Co-founder of Silent Circle, a provider of secure communications services.

Before founding PGP Inc, Zimmermann was a software engineer with more than 20 years of experience, specializing in cryptography and data security, data communications, and real-time embedded systems. His interest in the political side of cryptography grew out of his background in military policy issues.

Zimmermann has received numerous technical and humanitarian awards for his pioneering work in cryptography. In 2015 he received the US Privacy Champion Award from the Electronic Privacy Information Center. In 2014 he was inducted into the Cyber Security Hall of Fame, and Foreign Policy Magazine named him one of the Leading Global Thinkers of 2014. In 2012 the Internet Society inducted him into the Internet Hall of Fame. In 2008 PC World named him one of the Top 50 Tech Visionaries of the last 50 years. In 2006 eWeek ranked PGP 9th in the 25 Most Influential Products introduced since the invention of the PC in 1981. In 2003 he was included on the Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum Wall of Fame, and in 2001 he was inducted into the CRN Industry Hall of Fame. In 2000 InfoWorld named him one of the Top 10 Innovators in E-business. In 1999 he received the Louis Brandeis Award from Privacy International, in 1998 a Lifetime Achievement Award from Secure Computing Magazine, and in 1996 the Norbert Wiener Award from Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility for promoting the responsible use of technology. He also received the 1995 Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design, the 1995 Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In 1995 Newsweek named Zimmermann one of the "Net 50", the 50 most influential people on the Internet.

Zimmermann teaches crypto at Delft University of Technology's Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science, in the Netherlands. He received an Honorary Doctorate (Docteur Honoris Causa) from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 2016. He received his bachelor's degree in computer science from Florida Atlantic University in 1978. He is a member of the International Association of Cryptologic Research, and the League for Programming Freedom. He has served as a Fellow at the Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society. He served on the Roundtable on Scientific Communication and National Security, a collaborative project of The National Research Council and The Center for Strategic and International Studies. He also served on the Board of Directors for Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, and currently serves on the Advisory Boards for Santa Clara University's Computer Engineering Department, and AllClearID.

Zimmermann can be reached by email at prz at mit dot edu, or by phone by clicking here.