Private messaging apps: Who needs a secure messenger — and why?
December 15, 2019 / Alex LintonPrivate messaging
Everyone has the right to privacy, and a private messenger is the number one tool for people who want to communicate safely and securely on the internet. Nobody wants to feel unsafe online. Whether you’re swapping movie ideas with a friend or sending your boss some sensitive documents, private messaging keeps your communications secure.
For some, privacy is no joke. The messages you need to send privately are the most important ones — the ones that might have consequences if they’re not sent securely.
When you’re sending a message to someone and need to be sure only they will see it, you'll need a private messenger to have those secret conversations.
Private messenger apps: What makes a secure messenger secure?
There are a few things to look out for when you’re searching for a private messenger.
The first thing any private messenger needs is end-to-end encryption, AKA E2EE — this is the non-negotiable starting point for any app claiming to be a private messenger. End-to-end encryption means your messages are encrypted the entire time they’re in transit, so even if someone manages to intercept your messages, they still won’t be able to read them. Only you and the person you’re messaging have the encryption key necessary to read any given message.
But not all E2EE is created equal. Some methods of encryption are more hardy than others, so it’s important to check out what kind of encryption your messenger is using.
You also need to consider who is handling and storing your messages. If the company running the messaging app is storing your messages (and the messages aren’t encrypted well enough), the company may be able to decrypt them. And depending on where and how the messages are being stored, law enforcement agencies or other third parties could even force a company to expose your messages.
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In addition, some messengers may be private, but not anonymous. A private messenger will generally hide the contents of a message you send, but not hide the fact that you sent it. An anonymous messenger hides all the information about the conversation, not just the contents of your messages. And a messenger isn’t anonymous if you need to tie your name, email, or phone number to your account. This connects your digital account with your real-world identity — forever.
Staying completely anonymous means nobody can trace your conversations back to you.
Private messaging: The #1 fans
As we hinted at earlier, there are some groups of people who regularly need to send high-stakes private messages. For these people, finding a truly anonymous private messaging solution can make a world of difference.
People like journalists, whistleblowers, politicians, and activists need to communicate privately every day.
Private messaging for journalists
Journalists are targets for hacking and doxxing, often to expose their sources’ identities. But journalists are increasingly turning to private messengers to more safely and privately communicate with sources.
It’s not just about source protection for journalists, though. In our modern political climate, with press freedom in freefall, journalists need to protect themselves as well as their sources. This need for protection drives journalists to use end-to-end encrypted private messaging apps. Law enforcement agencies can’t subpoena the company running the app to obtain copies of journalists’ messages, because the company is never able to read the messages in the first place.
And if the private messaging app in question is decentralised as well as end-to-end encrypted, conversation metadata (identities of the interlocutors, times and locations of conversations, etc.) can’t be subpoenaed either.
Private messaging for whistleblowers
By definition, a whistleblower is an insider who shares confidential information with the public (or intends to do so). Whistleblowing is typically done to expose illegal or unethical practices. This often means large corporations (or even governments) breaking the law.
Whistleblowers have a clear and pressing need for private and anonymous communications. If the whistleblower’s identity becomes known, the entity they blew the whistle on could sue them, arrest them, or worse.
It’s absolutely crucial for whistleblowers to communicate privately and anonymously with journalists, lawyers, and anyone else they may need to contact to successfully blow the whistle on the misconduct they’ve discovered.
Private messaging for politicians
As a routine part of their job, many politicians need to communicate about secret or classified information. Private messaging apps allow politicians to securely discuss top-secret matters while minimising the risk of their conversations being leaked, hacked or otherwise accessed without their knowledge or consent.
Private messaging for activists
Activists — especially activists fighting for (or against) highly controversial causes — are often targeted by governments, law enforcement agencies, or third parties who object to their activism. They may fall victim to attempts to hack, subpoena or otherwise obtain their messages, to be used as evidence in a court of law or simply to garner a conviction in the court of public opinion.
Activists use encrypted private messaging apps to find like-minded people, organise protests, and spread the word about their cause. This way, they can protect themselves from anyone who might want to shut them down or stop them from achieving their goals.
Private messaging: Conclusion
For some people, private, anonymous messaging apps can be absolutely crucial. Journalists use these apps to safeguard their sources — and themselves. Whistleblowers need them to get the word out without compromising their identity. Politicians use them to keep the country’s secrets safe. And activists rely on them to further their cause without compromising their safety or security.
Whether you’re talking about super-sensitive stuff or having a deep and meaningful with a friend, private messengers are the way to go. And decentralised, end-to-end encrypted private messengers like Session aim to be the cream of the crop.
It’s time to take back control of your online privacy. Get ready to switch to a secure decentralised messenger.
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