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Choose a private encrypted chat app




One is concerned about an update to the privacy policy for WhatsApp owned by Facebook Inc. Meanwhile, President Trump’s exhaustion of prominent social media following the U.S. Capitol riot has pushed people to seek communication tools without moderators and without external visibility.

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On January 7, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Inc., tweeted, Use Signal. “A subsequent flood of users caused a temporary disruption in the app’s phone number verification system. Days later, Twitter Inc. CEO Jack Dorse posted a screenshot of Signal above. App Store rankings, as well as a heart-shaped emoji. Meanwhile, influential accounts on Parler, the popular social network among conservatives, called on subscribers to switch to Telegram. Donald Trump Jr. actively publishes on a public channel of the application.

What do Signal and Telegram have in common? Both are chat apps that offer end-to-end encryption outside of the reach of Big Techs. Encrypted messaging apps such as Signal and Telegram may offer more security, privacy, and functionality than plain text messaging, but their encryption methods and data collection vary. Meanwhile, Apple Inc.’s WhatsApp and iMessage also offer end-to-end encryption, but in their respective ecosystems.

Here’s how to choose an encrypted chat app and why you might want to do it.

Why is encrypted communication important?

A well-implemented encryption protocol makes messages and calls visible only to the sender and intended recipient.

The content of this post sounds like gibberish to everyone, including the app builder, the government, and your ISP. Sending an encrypted message is like using a sealed envelope instead of a postcard.

It’s important to note that encryption does not prevent the recipient from forwarding your message or taking a screenshot, or someone seeing messages when accessing your phone. (Make sure your devices are protected with a password or passcode.)

End-to-end encryption is so secure that government officials have historically criticized the technology, saying the apps make it difficult to track down criminals. This is because encryption can protect everyone, including bad actors. In 2018, rumors of kidnapped children spreading on WhatsApp fueled violence and deadly attacks in India. The platform then imposed transfer limits on messages, hoping to slow the flow of disinformation. Yet the incident proved difficult for authorities to quell the violence when they fail to see what prompts it.

I often hear from friends and family that they have nothing to hide and therefore don’t need to keep their texts a secret. According to Jennifer King, a privacy and data researcher at the Stanford Institute for Artificial Intelligence, it’s not about hiding the communications themselves. It’s more that there is a general feeling that the number of digital spaces today where you can assume someone isn’t collecting data from you is getting smaller and smaller. Apps like Signal, which Dr. King uses in addition to iMessage, provide a haven for privacy.

What is the difference between the apps?

I focus on the most popular free platforms. First, there are the two independents: Signal, a nonprofit organization funded largely by WhatsApp co-founder and former Facebook executive Brian Acton; and Telegram, founded and funded by its managing director, Pavel Durov, an entrepreneur who created Russia’s largest social network. Then there’s WhatsApp and iMessage, run by two of the biggest tech companies.

These apps can all run over cellular and Wi-Fi networks, and host features such as audio and video calls, read receipts, typing indicators and threaded responses, as well as the ability to send messages. from different devices. And yes, they all allow you to communicate in the essential language of the Internet: GIFs.

Applications differ in the encryption protocol, the amount of data collected on your device or the nature of the messages themselves (metadata) and compatible mobile platforms. Since chat apps are not compatible with each other, you need to gather all your friends, family and coworkers on the same app or constantly jump between them.


Pros: Signal is widely regarded as the most private application. Its encryption is open source, which is considered good practice among cybersecurity professionals. This means that the code can be examined for faults and verified by researchers. It offers apps for Android, iPhone, iPad, Mac, Windows, and Linux, as well as privacy features like expired messages. The app has added a number of user-friendly features over the past year, including group video chat for up to eight participants. (Group chats can accommodate up to 1,000 participants.) A 2016 Grand Jury subpoena yielded only two data points: the date an account was created and the date last used.

Cons: Even though it’s a while, it’s not as widely adopted as WhatsApp and iMessage. And while Signal regularly adds more features, it doesn’t have WhatsApps text formatting or location sharing.


Pros: Telegram supports up to 200,000 members in a group, which is why it has served as the app of choice for protesters in Hong Kong, Iran, and Belarus. The app has some unique features, such as sorting contacts by the last time they were seen on the app and the ability to play voice notes at twice the recorded speed.

Cons: Telegram is often criticized for releasing only parts of its code for public review. Telegram may have weaker cryptography than Signal, but it’s hard to know because they’ve been somewhat shady about external audits, ”said Riana Pfefferkorn, researcher at the Stanfords Center for Internet and Society.

Telegram spokesman Mike Ravdonikas said application encryption and API are fully documented and open to review by security experts. “However, the core application server code is not public. A support page indicates that all code will eventually be released.”

In addition, telegram encryption is not activated by default. As with Facebook Messenger, encryption must be enabled for each chat: tap a contact’s username, select More, then Start secret chat.

Telegram may also collect metadata such as IP address and device information, which the company says in its privacy policy is used to prevent spam and abuse. While that doesn’t sound like much, the message metadata can serve as evidence.


Pros: WhatsApp uses the peer-reviewed Signals encryption protocol, which keeps message content secret between its more than two billion users. The app offers feature-rich dispatch sharing, custom wallpapers, the ability to feature individual posts, and more.

Cons: The desktop app does not work when your phone is not connected to the internet.

There are also new privacy concerns. A recent update to its terms of service and privacy policy sparked an uproar among users who did not want their data shared with Facebook.

WhatsApp spokesperson Carl Woog told me that the update only affects users who communicate with businesses on the app. Soon, businesses will be allowed to keep customer communications on a platform hosted on Facebook. The change does not affect users who chose not to share certain data with Facebook in 2016, he said.

Additionally, Mr. Woog explained that while the Apple App Store privacy label identifies the user’s location, contacts, and content “as data related to you,” that information is not necessarily collected. . Data such as your IP address and approximate location are helpful in investigating abuse, he said.

However, the app is owned by Facebook and currently shares certain information with its parent company, including your phone number and mobile device information. WhatsApp might, with a warrant, see who you’re messaging, but it doesn’t proactively keep those records. And he cannot see the content of these messages.


Pros: Like WhatsApp, iMessage has a massive user base as the default messaging platform on the over 1 billion active iPhones and iPads around the world. While you might know it from its app, Messages, iMessage is the platform itself, which handles end-to-end encrypted text, images, and voice, blue bubble interactions. (Apples FaceTime is also end-to-end encrypted.)

Cons: The platform only works on Apple devices. Messages from Android users, chats with these green bubbles are not encrypted.

Apple maintains some metadata. Apple checks if the phone numbers you enter are compatible with iMessage. The number, as well as the date and time of the search, are deleted after 30 days. A spokesperson for the company said Apple could not determine whether a communication took place.

This story was posted from an agency feed with no text editing.

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