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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)

 

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  • 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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Report: Microsoft Rolls Out end-to-end Encryption on Skype

In January, Microsoft said they would offer the encryption feature for audio calls, text messaging and image, audio and video file transmissions

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Skype
Skype. Pixabay

Microsoft has reportedly rolled out end-to-end encryption for private conversations on Skype that would ensure that the chat content between two people is hidden in both, the chat list and the notifications.?

This feature comes after months of testing and is now available for all users on Skype iOS, Android, Linux, Mac and Windows, tech website MSPoweruser.com reported late on Monday.

Microsoft was yet to confirm the development.

The new encryption feature could be activated from a “New Private Conversation” option that is now part of the “Compose” menu or from the recipient’s profile.

Microsoft
Microsoft was yet to confirm the development. (Wikimedia commons)

Users could participate in only one private conversation from a single device at a time and on switching the conversation to other devices, the messages they send and receive would be tied to the device they would be using at the time, the report added.

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In January, Microsoft said they would offer the encryption feature for audio calls, text messaging and image, audio and video file transmissions.

Except for making the communication channel secure, end-to-end encryption also ensures that messages stored on servers could only be read by those involved in the communications. (IANS)