Regularly I get asked by friends if I use Whatsapp as they do and want to be able to send me messages for free.
Now of course this has been possible for years using the XMPP protocol to send messages across most devices online for free. This was the way forward as it was an open and syndicated network. I.e. it used an open standard and code and could be used by anyone without being tied to one organisation. Two people could chat using completely different chat applications, so long as both applications followed the open XMPP protocol. Early implementations of Google Talk, AOL Messager etc did this.
However this never took off the way Whatsapp did. Sadly. Perhaps people never valued or understood open standards or really just don’t care, anyway in short 450 million of you thought it better to use a closed source, proprietary service with major security flaws.
- And there loads more, just a couple links from sources list of the Wikipedia article.
However all of a sudden people are concerned over privacy, not everyone mind you… but more then just a few. What’s going to happen now that Facebook owns all that information about me (and my contacts and what I say to them)? Well, let me say this and let it rent space in your brain for a bit… why on earth would Facebook pay $19 BILLION for Whatsapp? In short, you and your data and your contacts data. (At a minimum, your list of contacts is shared with Whatsapp…)
Time to take control of your communication. It’s reckless and irresponsible to blindly ignore the issues and plead ignorance any longer. There very good alternatives out there.
Stop selling your privacy for convenience and remove Whatsapp from your devices today. Here’s a plan that will get you off Whatsapp while still providing you with free messaging capability and putting privacy first.
Step one: Choose one of the following secure alternatives
My personal recommendation. Here’s why:
- It’s open source, that means anyone can easily verify it works as advertised. It’s GPLv3 licensed and will always be free.
- It’s built to be secure. All messages are encrypted locally on your phone, so if your phone is lost, your messages will be safe. E.g. If you bank sends verification SMS’s to your phone, these cannot be accessed by anyone but you, even if you loose your phone.
- Messages to other TextSecure users are encrypted over the air by default, protecting your communication in transit. I.e. they can only be read by the intended recipient. Not the advertising team at Facebook HQ…
- If the other user does not have TextSecure, it goes as a normal SMS.
- It’s a community run project funded by https://pressfreedomfoundation.org, https://www.opentechfund.org and more.
At the moment TextSecure is only available for Android devices, however the iOS app (and others) is coming soon.
Threema takes a couple steps forward and a few back. It offers Android and iOS apps, but is not open source. This bothers me, but people in the know seem to be fairly happy with the set-up there and that it’s all been done properly. Unfortunately you can never tell because nobody else can look at the source code. Rant aside, it’s a good option that offers key features. From their website:
Threema is a mobile messaging app that puts security first. With true end-to-end encryption, you can rest assured that only you and the intended recipient can read your messages. Unlike other popular messaging apps (including those claiming to use encryption), even we as the server operator have absolutely no way to read your messages.
Also a consideration, for some, it costs $1.99. But seriously, that’s not even one beer… worth it I’d say!
- Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ch.threema.app
- iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/threema/id578665578?ls=1&mt=8
- Website: https://threema.ch
Step Two: Get your friends and family on-board
Get in touch with your most contacted friends and family and get them to make the switch too. That is after all how you started using Whatsapp…
Image credit: 月明 端木 (via Flickr)