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Popular Messaging Apps ‘Failing to Protect Users’ Privacy’ claims Amnesty International

If you think instant messaging services are private, you are in for a big surprise as our communications are under constant threat from cybercriminals and spying by state authorities

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November 2, 2016: Amnesty looked at eleven of the most popular messaging apps and found big variations in security. Facebook messenger and WhatsApp were best with a score of 73/100.

“If you think instant messaging services are private, you are in for a big surprise. The reality is that our communications are under constant threat from cyber criminals and spying by state authorities. Young people, the most prolific sharers of personal details and photos over apps like Snapchat, are especially at risk,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Head of Amnesty International’s Technology and Human Rights Team.

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He added, “WhatsApp uses a very strong encryption. It does a very good job by telling people what kind of encryption it chooses and how it protects people’s information.”

Conversely Skype, owned by software giant Microsoft, and Snapchat performed poorly. Elsayed-Ali said, “They don’t use end-to-end encryption which is essentially a kind of encryption that means only the sender and the receiver is able to read the messages.”

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Snapchat disputes Amnesty conclusions and says privacy and security are what it calls foundation values. Microsoft told VOA in a statement, “Skype uses encryption and a range of other technical security measures and we protect people’s privacy through legal challenges advocacy and strong policies to notify customers when we receive government requests for data.”

Amnesty says it’s not only personal privacy at stake. According to Elsayed-Ali, “Journalists all over the world who are trying to uncover corruption trial and abuses by government, activists who are resisting repression in their countries are being actively sought out by their governments who are trying to find their information to disrupt their work and often to imprison them or prosecute them.”

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Items like cars and home appliances are increasingly been connected to the internet, the so called Internet of Things (IoT). According to Amnesty, “There will be sensors everywhere with the Internet of things, maybe tens or hundreds of billions of sensors in our homes and in our cities. Listening in, collecting information all the time and if we don’t protect privacy now with things like very strong encryption, then there will be no privacy in the future.”

Bottom of the Amnesty’s rankings was the Chinese firm Tencent which owns the messaging apps WeChat and QQ. It scored zero out of 100. (VOA)

 

  • mercerie

    Apparently, they don’t know very much about privacy. If the did, they would have picked Threema, which doesn’t generate metadata and can be used without a phone number.

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WhatsApp End-to-end Encryption May Weaken on Integration with Facebook

The New York Times reported on Friday that Facebook has planned to integrate chats within WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram

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"WhatsApp Business" was launched last week in Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Britain and the US. Pixabay

WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption — the hallmark of users’ security — may go for a toss if Facebook integrates the popular mobile messaging platform with not-that-secure Instagram and Messenger.

According to a report in The Wired on Saturday, to universally preserve end-to-end encryption poses a whole additional set of critical challenges for Facebook.

WhatsApp chats are currently end-to-end encrypted by default. Facebook Messenger offers the feature if you turn on “Secret Conversations.”

“Instagram does not currently offer any form of end-to-end encryption for its chats,” the report said.

“The big problem I see is that only WhatsApp has default end-to-end encryption. So if the goal is to allow cross-app traffic, and it’s not required to be encrypted, then what happens? There are a whole range of outcomes here,” Matthew Green, a cryptographer at the Johns Hopkins University, was quoted as saying.

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WhatsApp on a smartphone device. Pixabay

WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum quit Facebook over difference of opinion with CEO Mark Zuckerberg when it comes to data privacy and encryption.

Koum announced his exit “after clashing with its parent, Facebook, over the popular messaging service’s strategy and Facebook’s attempts to use its personal data and weaken its encryption”.

Brian Acton started WhatsApp with Koum. Facebook acquired the messaging service ago for $19 billion in 2014. Acton quit Facebook in 2017 and Koum left the company last April.

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The New York Times reported on Friday that Facebook has planned to integrate chats within WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram.

“Facebook is still in the early planning stages of homogenizing its messaging platforms, a move that could increase the ease and number of secured chats online by a staggering order of magnitude,” said The Wired report. (IANS)