The messaging apps you use throughout the day to talk with your friends may not be as trustworthy as you think they are. Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, iMessage, and even plain text messaging are either not secure or private methods of communication.
With plain text messaging, messages are sent through the phone networks in clear text, where it is not very difficult to intercept with some simple spoofing technology. Due to the clear nature of the messages, any man in the middle can read your messages.
This changes if your messages are end-to-end encrypted, which means that if someone was to intercept your message, it would be nothing but jumbled letters and numbers. WhatsApp messages for instance are encrypted, and up until 2021 it was considered a valid option for secure communication.
Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp
iMessage does come with the benefit of end-to-end encryption of messages, sent in a way that is reported by Apple to be inaccessible even to them. What is not encrypted though, is the list of people you send messages to. There are logs kept for every number typed into iMessage. This is then able to logged as interesting information that Apple routinely shares with law enforcement, and could be used to determine the people you associate with most, correlating your interests to find out more about you. Then for example, if your friend is successfully targeted with an ad, you may be seeing the same ad soon.
Signal is an independent nonprofit and is open source, so it doesn’t have accountability to a bunch of shareholders pressuring it to sell to Facebook. It’s end-to-end encrypted, doesn’t keep logs of who you message, and it can also effectively replace your default text messaging app. Signal is able to be used to send text messages to people that don’t have it installed, and they won’t notice a thing, but if they install it too, the messages and calls are end-to-end encrypted.
CalyxOS comes with Signal preinstalled, and I install it on any phone I use.
Matrix is another interesting communication option for the privacy concerned among us. Matrix is a totally decentralised and open source messaging platform that provides end-to-end encryption. Users can make use of one of the many servers including the main public server, or even host their own server on their device. What this allows is greater control over the flow of data between you and your friends; you decide where and for how long the messages are saved. The downside to Matrix is that you can only use it to communicate with other matrix users, which means you’ll need to convince your friends to start using it. This is unlike Signal, where you can still use it to text people without it. The best way to start using Matrix right now, is to sign up for an account on element.io, which can be found on F-Droid.
As often as possible it is good practice to use messaging platforms supporting end-to-end encryption. Stay away from platforms that may use your data in a way that doesn’t serve you. Do some research on the platforms you send messages on, and find out if they are violating your privacy. If they are, it may be a good idea to move your conversations to Signal or Matrix.