Encrypted Messaging: Just a Hype?

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Private messaging, also known as personal messaging, also known as direct messaging.

Private messaging is one of the most common ways people communicate nowadays. WhatsApp, Viber, Dust, and Telegram are some of the most popular private messaging applications.

But as times go by, users wonder more and more: How private is private messaging, really?

And what does encrypted messaging have to do with any of this?

WhatsApp Policy Update: The Spark That Ignited The Fire

On January 6, 2021, messaging app WhatsApp announced changes in its privacy policies starting on February 8.

According to these changes, to continue using WhatsApp, users need to agree to let its parent company, Facebook Inc, and its subsidiaries collect their user data.

So, what information does WhatsApp want to share with Facebook Inc?

As stated in WhatsApp FAQs:

“The information we share with the other Facebook Companies includes your account registration information (such as your phone number), transaction data, service-related information, information on how you interact with others (including businesses) when using our Services, mobile device information, your IP address, and may include other information identified in the Privacy Policy section entitled ‘Information We Collect’ or obtained upon notice to you or based on your consent.”

The Backlash

Not long after millions of WhatsApp users received the policy change notification, the backlash had started. And it started where most backlashes start. Twitter.

Accordingly, Twiterratis worldwide protested, revolting against the new policy, encouraging people to #deletewhatsapp.

https://twitter.com/privacyint/status/1347267474174205955

Elon Musk, who is known for his criticism of Facebook, didn’t stay out of this. And so he added more fuel to the fire with two of his Teets.

https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1347031803987599360

https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1347165127036977153

The Outcome

Just two days after Musk’s tweet, over 100,000 users downloaded Signal, while more than 2 million users downloaded Telegram—both of which are considered some of the better options for truly private messaging.

Despite all this, as WhatsApp noted, its policy changes have nothing to do with WhatsApp’s security. WhatsApp remains an encrypted private messenger. But what is encrypted messaging?

What is Encrypted Messaging?

Encrypted messaging ensures privacy in your instant messaging communications. Encryption means that private messages remain private.

No one but you and the person you are sending messages with can see these messages. Nobody in between can peek or gain access somehow – not even the application’s developer. 

Encryption technology goes beyond messaging. Password, online banking, and credit card numbers all use encryption to be secure. Otherwise, they would be useless.

There are two types of encryption, namely encryption in transit and end-to-end encryption.

The two kinds of encrypted messaging
Source

In encryption in transit, transmitted data is hidden from everyone but the sender, the receiver, and the service provider. This means that a mobile network operator or a social network can’t see your messages, but the messaging app’s service provider can see every part of your communication.

An end-to-end encryption is a more advanced form of encryption because the service provider stays out of the way, and only the sender and the receiver can see the messages. End-to-end encryption can even not involve any service provider.

If encryption in transit is used in the first case, your data can be potentially be given to any form of law enforcement by your provider. However, this cannot happen in end-to-end encryption, as the service provider doesn’t have access in the first place, let alone giving access to anyone. Likewise, if a bad actor hacks and gains access to your provider, they can’t get access to you with end-to-end encryption.

The Importance of Encrypted Messaging

Privacy is not a “nice to have”. And it’s even more than a necessity. Privacy, including private messaging, is a right.

According to Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, you the right to respect for your private and family life, your home, and your correspondence. 

In 1998, when the Human Rights Act was signed, correspondence mostly involved the telephone and letters. But now, the correspondence also includes instant messages and emails. Today, privacy is more important than ever. Encrypted private messaging ensures that your private messaging will remain private.

The importance of encrypted messaging lies in the fact that, first and foremost, encrypted messaging is a right.

Just a Hype?

In the age of information, we exchange information more and more over the last few years. And if we didn’t encrypt this information, fraud and theft would be rampant. 

Encrypted messaging is not just in fashion. Encryption is a basic necessity for the internet.

But if encrypted messaging is essential for the average person, imagine how necessary it is for professionals in the legal, journalism, and financial fields.

 Even Google trends also prove that fact, as the interest for encrypted messaging only goes up.

Therefore, no, encrypted messaging isn’t just hype.

In fact, it is only the beginning.

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