There is a growing consciousness about the desire to keep one’s messages private. Some are concerned about hackers, or worry about the government spying on them, but most people just agree with the general principle that what you say in your chat conversations ought to stay between you and the people you chat with.
It’s not a pleasant idea to think that your messages could be archived for perpetuity on a large company’s server or analyzed by some algorithm. The quest for privacy has birthed a whole generation of apps that promise to give you exactly that. Services like Telegram and Signal have turned the phrase “end-to-end encryption” into a popular discussion. We're here to help you figure out what this is all about and which apps to try.
A little background on encryption
Before we look at some specific apps, here’s a very brief explainer. Essentially, end-to-end encryption means that only the sender and the recipient can read the message. The message is encrypted on your phone, send to the recipient, and then decrypted. This prevents prying eyes from the telecom providers, government agencies, and even the company that hosts the service itself from being able to read your messages. This means they wouldn’t have the ability to hand over messages even if they were subpoenaed to by a government agency. And if a hacker broke into the messaging service's servers, they couldn't get at your conversations.
The desire for end-to-end (E2E) encryption isn’t just about those who don’t want the NSA to spy on them. In practice, it’s just about a basic sense that messages should be private. With that in mind, you have to be aware that just because something has the word “encrypted” doesn’t mean it is end-to-end encrypted. Some services will encrypt the message between the endpoints of transmission; your conversations are stored encrypted on the messaging service's servers, but since they encrypted them, they can decrypt them.
The services we're looking at here all feature end-to-end encryption.
One of the most popular apps in this space is Telegram. It’s been a pretty hot app for a couple of years, which is like 20 years in app time.
The most painstaking part is you need to invite all of your contacts into your new, secret chat world through the app’s navigation menu. It’s the biggest problem with using over-the-top services, as it doesn’t have the ubiquity of SMS messaging.
Telegram lets you create private or public channels for groups that you want to stay connected to.
Once you’ve done this, you can message people individually or create group channels for talking with an unlimited number of other users. The upside here is you can escape the limitations of MMS messaging that usually caps you at a particular number of people. Your group can even be public, giving you a mini social network without all the trolls that plague the likes of Facebook and Twitter.
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