18 Jan 2017

Private messaging - is it safe?

From Summer Times, 9:15 am on 18 January 2017

Internet New Zealand says that the majority of people have serious concerns about just how private their private messages are.

But how much of a worry is it, now so many of us communicate online?

Snapchat messaging

Snapchat messaging Photo: (pixabay Public Domain)

Jordan Carter from Internet NZ says communications in the digital age are remarkably durable  and never assume anything is private.

“It’s like posting a letter, people think there’s an invisible envelope around things they send and the only people who can read it are them and the people they’re sending it to.”

Not the case, he says.

“Plain old text messages definitely aren’t like that, emails aren’t like that and some of the messaging things people use today aren’t like that either.”

The answer is encryption, using a messaging app into which encryption is built. So which apps pass muster? Internet NZ has run the microscope over them.

“The best of breed for encryption technology in a way that can be verified by outside parties is WhatsApp messenger and Signal messenger.

“Facebook messenger is good if you opt into secret conversations – but you’ve got to opt in.”

He says imessage on the iphone is good too but it’s not as transparent and verifiable as others and you have to have an iphone to use it.

“If you’re interested in privacy, if you want to make sure there’s a silent envelope around the things you say, you can have confidence in these apps,” Carter says.

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