Recently we discovered that your aunt’s favourite place to send chain messages about how coronavirus is just Jesus voicing his displeasure at our immigration policies, is a gossip and gossiping about you in particular — yes, that’s right — it’s WhatsApp, the world’s most popular messaging service recently announced that it was sharing user data with its parent company Facebook and that anyone who didn’t like it could go live somewhere with no cellphone signal. For some this may not seem like a particularly startling idea. After all, unless you’re selling nuclear secrets to Iran or sending nudes to someone who isn’t your partner then you have nothing to hide, right? Well, the problem is that, as has been proven by the likes of Cambridge Analytica and co., the companies that buy your personal data are not interested in James Bond fantasies but rather in how your timeline can be weaponised to win elections, cause insurrections and basically bend an unsuspecting public to the will of the highest bidder. All while we send memes.
Alarmed by the recent developments with WhatsApp, many have chosen to flee the platform in search of less nosy pastures. If you feel like joining the exodus, here are some suggestions:
Over the past few days the encrypted messaging service has registered more than 25 million new downloads seemingly in response to WhatsApp coming out as a proud tattletale. Founded in 2013 by brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov in Moscow, the platform differs from Whatsapp in that you do not necessarily need someone’s contact number in order to contact them, just a username. It also has unlimited server storage, a function called secret chat (basically a super encrypted one-on- one chat that self-destructs) and a bunch of other things. Most importantly, all of the data shared on Telegram is private. Not even Telegram HQ could see your nudes if you didn’t want them to. Thus making it very popular in countries like Russia or Iran where the governments have been known to snoop.
One thing to watch out for though: the strength of Telegram’s privacy policies and encryption software also makes it popular among society’s dregs. According to Timeslive, turning on your location and interacting with “people nearby” in the app, will probably expose you (or your kids, if they have it) to the kind of porn that would make a sailor blush.
Following closely behind Telegram is Signal, which is an end-to-end encrypted messaging service, meaning you and the recipient of the message are the only ones who know its content. Amusingly, WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton was one of the brains behind Signal’s formation with is apparent reasoning being that he wanted “to support, accelerate, and broaden Signal’s mission of making private communication accessible and ubiquitous”.
The app gained popularity in the US during last year’s George Floyd protests when it became clear that the authorities were monitoring the communications of certain activists.
In the week following WhatsApp’s announcement, the service saw a significant boost in popularity that was helped by the world’s richest man Elon Musk tweeting: “Use signal.” Like Telegram, Signal’s big selling point is privacy. Unlike Telegram it seems to not have the same porn problem.
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