May 20, 2024

Messaging and privacy – What you need to know?

In recent decades, communication has evolved dramatically. Using texting apps has become a popular way to stay in touch with friends and family. However, the convenience of messaging comes with privacy risks. When you send a text or chat online, you’re entrusting companies with your conversations. Protecting the privacy of those exchanges requires understanding the technology involved and taking proactive measures.

Risks of messaging services accessing your data

Most messaging services today rely on the cloud to transmit and store conversations. That means your messages pass through servers owned by companies like Facebook, Apple, and Google. The companies claim they employ encryption and other safeguards to protect data. However, leaks and hacks have exposed vulnerabilities. Data breaches at third-party analytics firms have also compromised WhatsApp and Telegram user info. Such incidents highlight the dependence on corporations to handle data responsibly. Even if encryption works properly, the companies themselves still have access to metadata about who you contact and when.

The other privacy threat with private message services comes from government demands for data. Apps like iMessage and Signal use end-to-end encryption so that even the companies can’t access message content. However, agencies still subpoena metadata through legal procedures. For example, secret FBI orders compelled Apple and Google to hand over user data hundreds of thousands of times in recent years. While the companies claim to resist overbroad requests, transparency remains an issue.

Using private notes for sensitive info

Sometimes you need to share sensitive details like passwords or account numbers. Relying on standard messaging for this info poses privacy risks. Even with disappearing messages enabled, the recipient could copy down the details before the texts vanish. A safer alternative is to use private notes. These are essentially encrypted self-destructing notes sent through messaging apps. The recipient only views the contents once online before the note disappears.

On Android, an app called PrivNote lets you create encrypted private notes and share links through any messenger. iOS users employ apps like LockNote and Kasware to make secure private notes. The encryption ensures the message contents can’t be intercepted in transit or stored by the service provider. You also password-protect notes for an extra layer of control over who reads them. The zero-knowledge architecture of private notes keeps your confidential data more protected. Just be careful not to expose any private info when initially sending the links to people.

Encrypting messages end-to-end

For maximum messaging privacy, experts recommend using end-to-end encryption (E2EE). This method encrypts your texts, photos, videos, and calls directly on your device before transmitting them to others. The encryption keys only exist on the endpoints rather than company servers. Not even the service provider decrypts the data.