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Secure Messengers... Or Not So Secure? - 2019

photo-1523274620588-4c03146581a1 Big data is watching you - photo by @ev on Unsplash

Hi, my name is The Privacy Advocate, and I will be writing regularly on Decentralize.Today (DT) on all matters privacy. I will initially cover messengers, encryption, protecting your computer, cellphone and other devices, how to avoid Google and the likes, as well as how to replace them with equally good or better products that allow you to own your data and to not become the product.

Privacy is a basic human right. Sadly, people take little care of theirs and trust that companies like Google and Facebook are doing God's work. 
Well, believe me, they are not, and you and your data are the product. Exploiting it is how they make money.

First things first: about two years ago, DT published a series of articles about messengers, examining their relative levels of security followed by a 'Judgement Day' of sorts proclaiming the best services available.

Time has passed, but these articles still get feedback and attention. Now that Decentralize.Today has moved from Medium to its own host, and with all the new technologies, advancing in encryption and of course the multiple new players entering the messaging market (and BBM effectively disappearing all together), it seemed like a good time to research and update the information from these articles.

We tested, monitored background connections, and reviewed what today's messengers are all about: the pros, the cons, and of course how their claims hold up in reality.

Over the next two weeks, I will write in-depth reviews about Telegram, Discord (both used heavily in the crypto world), Status, Wire, RIOT, Threema, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, Signal and others.

Once this series of articles is completed, we will have another 'Judgement Day' type pronouncement, where we will take a look at who really does or does not deliver on their claims, and explore what you can do to connect as independently and as 'decentralized' as possible.

We will look into the encryption claims and whether they are justified. Is the software and the encryption open source? Who is behind the company? Are there ulterior motives other than just providing a product or service to the community?

Are the messages stored in plain text or encrypted? Is the encryption key held by the company, and can they view your encrypted messages?

Is the company collecting your data and possibly reselling it? Are ads involved? How do they handle requests from the authorities, and how do they respond to requests from law enforcement agencies?

You might be surprised to discover how some companies will happily hand data over or even help you retrieve your own even after claiming it was all encrypted.

How does your messenger handle meta data? Are you aware that your meta data can be used to profile you?

As an example, say you sit on a bus and text whilst near a known criminal. You don't know them, you just happen to be on the same bus.
Next week, you fly to London and, lucky as you are, are seated next to another flagged individual. Coincidentally for sure. But you may now be monitored, thanks to leaks of your metadata.

This may sound like a conspiracy theory and as if I might have my tinfoil hat on too tightly, but metadata can and will work against you. Therefore avoiding leakage and encrypting as much of this data as possible is key.
Let's get real here, meta data can give away a lot of information about you and related parties.

Through my forthcoming articles on DT, I will guide you on blocking spyware on your phone, deleting the built-in evils like the Facebook and Google frameworks without diminishing the overall experience.
We will show you ways to do this without rooting or jail-breaking the phone, and we will also present you an alternative way to go even deeper and replace your OS.

So join me on this incredible journey over the next few weeks as we delve deep into the status of messaging as and of today, on Decentralize.Today.

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