The extent to which the impact of WhatsApp’s T&C changes will truly have on individuals has likely been exaggerated. Indeed, WhatsApp simply wants the permission to share information gathered from the app with the broader Facebook family of products. More importantly, this data would not include messages, groups or call logs. As Javvad Malik, security awareness advocate at KnowBe4 reiterates, “if anyone is already using Facebook, Messenger, or Instagram (the Facebook Family of products), then most of this information is already available to them”.
Yet, this debacle has no doubt shed light on a serious concern. Tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon, are tirelessly mining the web for our data. As the more they know, the better they can target advertisements, which is ultimately where their profits lie.
While our right to privacy may often be touted, it is a right that appears to be increasingly difficult to preserve. Take the Cambridge Analytica scandal, for example. We witnessed as Facebook user data was harvested and exploited to manipulate voters in the run up to the 2016 US elections and Brexit referendum, with very real and sinister ramifications.
Yet, it would be futile, even undesirable, to turn back the time and revert to a life before social media. So, what then?
Fortunately, there are a number of privacy-conscious social media platforms that can help us in achieving the best of both worlds; anonymity and the opportunity to socialise. Here are the top five to consider:
Initially released in 2014, Signal promises the use of state-of-art security and end-to-end encryption to ensure that your messages are never shared or viewed by anyone apart from yourself and the intended recipients. Message history is also stored directly and solely on your own device. Moreover, as the encryption software they utilise is open-sourced, it is subject to greater public scrutiny and forces those responsible for the app to swiftly take measures to remediate any security issues.
Once the ’Secret’ chat function is enabled, your calls and messages are protected with end-to-end encryption so that Telegram can no longer access the data. Like Signal, the conversations you have in ‘Secret’ chats are only saved on the devices of the participants as opposed to Telegram servers. However, Telegram takes this a step further. It is only available on that particular device. If a participant were to login to their account on another device, the conversation would no
longer be visible. You would also be alerted if someone attempts to take a screenshot of your messages.
As stated on their website, Keybase uses 256-bit encryption. In other words, “someone would have to try more than 115 quattuorvigintillion possible keys to hack your private key. Not even a hundred thousand computers could try all those keys in trillions of years”. If this doesn’t summarise the app’s position on privacy, we’re not sure what would. Moreover, it allows users to collaborate and securely share files, making it the ideal replacement to Slack, for example.
The very foundation of Diaspora is built on three beliefs: Decentralisation, Freedom and Privacy. As opposed to holding everyone’s data on a single server owned by a large organisation, the founders of Diaspora have created a social network that disperses this information; and it is owned by no one. Each user has the ability to create and host their own server, otherwise coined a ‘pod’, or join a friend’s, and communicate within this ‘diaspora’. Users can also employ pseudonyms.
MeWe is another social media platform that has arisen from the privacy revolution. The California-based platform prides itself on the absence of advertisements and the manipulation of user feeds. In fact, users have full reign over what content they see. While the site operates similarly to Facebook, it’s a safer alternative. Unlike Facebook messenger, for instance, all of MeWe’s messages are double encrypted