Among the two billion WhatsApp users worldwide there has been a backlash—one, however, that is based on at least some misinformation. A careful reading of the policy changes reveals that, for now, the changes apply only to chats with business accounts, and not individuals’ private conversations. It appears that a lot of those urging a WhatsApp boycott failed to make that distinction. Still, giving Facebook permission to access business communications should be troubling.
For those who want to consider dumping WhatsApp, there are several alternative messaging apps from which to choose. Apple, Facebook, and Google all offer phone/video/messaging apps that are alternatives for WhatsApp, but if your goal is to protect your personal privacy, then you probably want to avoid these big tech offerings.
Telegraph is right now the most popular secure alternative to WhatsApp. This app provides voice calling, video calling, and instant messaging. Already Telegram is approaching a half billion users attracted by the much improved security and privacy features. Those features, though, mean that Telegraph is sometimes a bit more complicated and techie-oriented than WhatsApp.
Even more secure and privacy-oriented is Signal. Offering the same encrypted voice calls, video calling, and instant messaging, Signal goes further by its use of open-source software. Right now the user base stands at about 20 million, which is a small fraction of Telegram’s.
Element (element.io) is a less-known but increasingly popular messaging app. It is cross-platform, meaning there are versions for Web, Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, and Linux.
Some other less-known messaging apps are Jami (jami.net), Briar (briarproject.org), and Status (status.im). Please note that none of those websites cited here have the “www” prefix! Obscurity is not security, but in this case using a little-known app could sometimes actually be an advantage.
The question for many WhatsApp users is, “Why go to the trouble of abandoning WhatsApp in favor of some other less-popular program that could be harder to use?” Edward Snowden summed it up well when he wrote: “Saying that you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different from saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say.”
Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel de Allende since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8@SMAguru.com.