Security check: Amnesty ranks the safest messaging apps
Which messaging app is considered the safest to use or guarantees the most privacy?
Amnesty International tried to answer that question by assessing 11 companies that run “the world’s most popular messaging apps” – including Apple, Google, Facebook, Skype, Snapchat and others.
Here is the outcome:
Facebook runs two very popular messaging apps, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. The assessment shows that the world’s largest social network is using the most encryption to maintain the privacy and security of its messaging apps.
The firm is also most transparent about the actions it is taking to combat human rights threats. For instance, WhatsApp is reportedly the only app that warns users when end-to-end encryption is not used on a particular chat, according to Amnesty International.
The iPhone manufacturer runs iMessenger and Facetime, and provides end-to-end encryption as a default, Amnesty International found. Apple has also reportedly taken steps against “encryption backdoors”, through which hackers can bypass encryption and access the communicated information.
The company has also disclosed government requests for access to date, which is great, but it still doesn’t notify users about non-encrypted messages.
Telegram brands itself as a secure messaging app to its 100 million active monthly users, but ironically doesn’t apply end-to-end encryption as a default. Moreover, users receive no warning while using weaker encryption.
Google’s messaging apps include Allo, Duo and Hangouts, but end-to-end encryption is present on Duo only. Encryption is optional on Allo and non-existent on Hangouts.
However, on a company level, Google has disclosed government requests for data and has also taken steps to secure encryption backdoors.
With more than 200m active daily users, mainly in Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia and Japan, the app does provide end-to-end encryption, but needs to do more to notify users about threats to human rights. Additionally, it doesn’t publish transparency reports, Amnesty International’s ranking shows.
Viber Media: 47/100
The messaging app Viber has almost 250m active daily users. The company does provide end-to-end communication encryption by default, but does not release transparency reports and does not share details on how it implements encryption.
South Korean firm Kakao owns KakaoTalk, which reportedly has 49m monthly users. It came under fire in 2014 following reports that it gave South Korea’s government information about its users. Since then, the firm has taken some steps to strengthen its encryption security, but still does not apply full end-to-end encryption as a default.
Microsoft has owned popular communication programme Skype since 2011. Today, Skype has more than 300m active users and, due to its popularity, it has been repeatedly targeted by government surveillance arms. Despite Microsoft’s strong stance and commitment to privacy and human rights, Skype uses a weak form of encryption.
Snapchat Inc.: 26/100
The super-popular Snapchat is used by more than 100m people on a daily basis. But, while it does claim to have a strong commitment to privacy, it does little to protect its users’ privacy; it does not deploy end-to-end encryption and should do more to inform users about its efforts to ensure their rights, according to Amnesty International.
Blackberry Messenger reportedly has 100m active users. Despite the large number of users, Blackberry only offers end-to-end encryption as a paid service. It also makes no public commitments to protecting freedom of expression and publishes no transparency reports.
WeChat and QQ, two of the most popular messaging apps in China, are owned by Tencent. It falls at the bottom of the list because, according to Amnesty International, it failed to meet any of the ranking’s criteria. It was also reportedly the only company that has remained quiet about granting government access to encrypted messages by building a backdoor access.