Of all the apps we use every day, messaging apps could perhaps be the most often used. As you are so busy communicating with your friends, I’m sure most people never think about any problems with these apps.
In fact, most people blindly follow the flock and communicate using standard SMS, WhatsApp, or Apple’s Messages app. After all, they work great!
Although these apps are well-known for being reliable and well established, there’s a hefty hidden price to pay. That is the price of your privacy.
Unless you have carefully selected a secure messaging app already, the companies that control the messaging apps have full access to your conversations on these platforms, and there is nothing you can do to stop them. You can be sure that these companies will not protect your private life from being scanned by companies or the government.
The good news is that free alternative apps exist that offer true privacy. These are ones that BigTech giants cannot control. If you care about your personal privacy at all, you and your friends must make the switch to a private messaging app as soon as possible.
Never forget, the more that companies and governments know about you, the more they can and will control you.
To get an idea of what I mean by that, just see the recent disaster with the freedom convoy in Canada. The government quickly observed what everybody was communicating and where the funds were coming from. Were everyone using tools that protected their privacy, there would be far less the government could do to stop freedom.
I’ll start with the easiest solution, one that can be most easily done by anyone already familiar with messengers.
Signal: This is perhaps the world’s most popular end-to-end encrypted messaging app. It also supports voice and video and can host a multiperson call at one time. Powered by open-source Signal protocol and peer-reviewed and recommended by security experts, including privacy advocates and the whistleblower Edward Snowden and security technologist Bruce Schneider. It also has a disappearing message feature.
The most apparent downside to Signal is that it requires revealing your phone number.
Thankfully, there are other messengers I’ll mention that, for maximum privacy, do not require a phone number.
Telegram: Another popular messaging app that offers end-to-end encryption for text, voice, and video. You can add the secret chat feature to add to the encryption chat. It has auto-deleting messages. It is open-source and has an open-source database library that allows developers to create a custom app. One thing to remember about the secret chat is that it doesn’t sync across multiple devices. Participants can only access these messages on the device that initiated the secret chat. From what I can tell, Telegram also suffers from the same weakness as Signal. You simply cannot get a Telegram account without providing a phone number.
Wire: An open-source, end-to-end encrypted messaging app that supports group chats, voice, and video calls. Self-destructing messages with a time limit flexibility and a guest call. What is a guest call? It means non-Wire users can join an end-to-end encrypted chat without registering or downloading anything.
Wire doesn’t require phone numbers for sign-up and vows not to profile its users. All of its apps have passed independent security audits. It features secure screen sharing, secure file sharing, visual search tools. I like the features on the no requirement for personal info and can use the app. I am planning to give it a try.
Nothing is 100% free in our technology world. Knowing that fact will help you in your decision-making. Always remember the phrase ‘if you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product.’ Yes, it is true. Facebook and Instagram are anything but free. They are paid handsomely, with everyone divulging details about our private lives using these apps and so many other “free” apps. That is the price that is more valuable than currency.
The Threema app is a paid and open-source end-to-end encrypted messaging app that runs its server in Switzerland and is fully compliant with the European Union [EU] and general data protection regulations [GDPR]. No phone number or email is required to sign up, which means you can use it with complete anonymity. Occasionally you can link it with a phone number or email for backup or recovery. It supports text chat, voice, and video calls. Also, it has a group chat and a distribution list. This tool sends the same messages to multiple recipients without knowing that everyone has received the same messages.
Element: An open-source end-to-end encrypted messaging app that supports group chats, video, and voice calls. It is also the most customizable app. It can be self-host interoperable with other messaging apps. Since element offers widgets, bridges can make it interoperable with Telegram, slack, discord, IRC, and gitters.
JAMI: A peer-to-peer end-to-end encrypted GNU messaging app backed by a free software foundation. It supports chats, voice and video calls, screen sharing, and a plugin library. It also has an offline functionality for users in the same network and doesn’t require personal information.
Session: Perhaps the best option there is for private messaging. This app was brought to my attention recently by one of my viewers. One of the best aspects is that you can be completely anonymous as you do not need to supply a phone number. Any messenger that requires a phone number can never be entirely private.
It runs on your mobile phones as well as desktop systems.
Another key feature is that it does not rely on a centralized server. You can read more about the importance of that here: https://getsession.org/centralisation-vs-decentralisation-in-private-messaging/
In my experience, as I have changed many social media platforms and messaging apps, I have to say in terms of messaging apps that are privacy-focused and not controlled by tech giants, we have many good choices. They are all way better than WhatsApp or Instagram or messages or Facebook messenger, so I encourage you to please do not become a product for BigTech. Instead, know that you matter, so your privacy matters. Never give it away.
Switch to one of these privacy-oriented messaging apps as soon as you can, and I promise you, you will not regret it.