anonymous messaging

A Guide To The Anonymous Messaging App Trend

As anonymous messaging apps grow in popularity,  tech companies and governments are locked in an epic privacy battle. Here are some anonymous messaging app choices you have.

A long-standing tradition of online anonymity is at the center of a battle between messenger app companies and the governments that want to break their security.

It’s a fight fueled by conflicting motivations. Tech companies want people to trust them, and they want to be able to sell their products globally without being banned for backdoor vulnerabilities or shady spyware.

Governments, on the other hand,  fear being locked out from messages between terrorists or criminals, or- in some countries – governments fear being unable to reveal forbidden speech.

anonymous messaging

How anonymous messaging works

Anonymous messaging uses end-to-end encryption that scrambles messages, then reassembles them using a secret “key” that only the sender and the recipient have.  It’s an entirely automated process, and in some cases the technology company does not even have access to the key, making it hard – or impossible- for governments to demand that messages be unlocked.

Who’s doing what with anonymous messaging

There are a wide variety of messaging apps that claim to be highly secure. Apple’s iMessage app for iPhones has taken a leading position in secure messaging by providing end-to-end encryption and steadfastly refusing government demands to unlock messages.[contextly_auto_sidebar id=”t8YHZFYZQtj0Ifeym4UMv0nVJFnfn2do”]

WhatsApp followed Apple’s lead in 2016 by providing end-to-end encryption for their messages. It is always activated and cannot be turned off by its one billion users.

Google and Facebook are both developing similar, highly secure messaging solutions.

There are plenty of secure messaging apps from smaller companies that can be found on Google Play or Apple’s App Store, among other places. However, not all messaging apps have the same level of security.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a leading proponent of secure messaging, has developed a helpful scorecard that evaluates the relative security of many of the messaging apps that are available today. Before choosing a secure messaging app it’s wise to look at the EFF reviews.

anonymous messaging

Governments fight back

As technology companies improve their encryption, governments are fighting back – hard. For instance, China has demanded source code from technology companies, Iran has demanded that messaging app companies store user data for Iranian citizens on servers located there, and Russia wants to ban officials from using WhatsApp.

Brazil temporarily banned WhatsApp, as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Morocco all battle encryption in their own countries.

In the United States, government officials are similarly distressed at the idea of being powerless to unlock messages. Apple and the FBI have been fighting over encryption as Apple claims first amendment protection from the government demands.

Curiously, in  2016 U.S. Presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly endorsed the Open Whisper message encryption solution that powers Whatsapp’s messaging app,

Clinton –  who fueled email controversy and intrigue as Secretary of State – was indirectly responsible for the Open Whisper solution as part of a US State Department initiative to help democracy advocates communicate securely.

Updated.

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Ole Skaar