You have probably already heard people saying you should leave WhatsApp. But why? What have they done?
Well for a start they are owned by Facebook – that’s good enough reason for me!
But now they have started to show their true colours and have actually been clear and open about how much of your data – your life, basically – they are planning to ‘steal’!
Time to move to a safer messaging app. Here are your options.
- Whats wrong with WhatsApp?
- What are the alternatives to WhatsApp?
- Is my data being stolen by other apps?
The Number One problem with WhatsApp is that it is owned by Facebook. I’ll be writing in-depth about the evils of Facebook and it’s plan, from the start, to mine our data and use it for profit and influence.
But for the moment, let’s just concentrate on WhatsApp.
In using WhatsApp (as I do – yes I’m still using it because so many of my friends are on it, though I’m moving them off it!) we are exposing ourselves to data theft already. It doesn’t gather the content of your chats, but it does collect the ‘metadata’ attached to them – such as the sender, the time a message was sent and who it was sent to. This is already being shared with Facebook companies (including Facebook and Instagram).
When Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014, it said it wouldn’t merge its services but a few years later it announced that it would integrate the messaging systems of WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook has for a while been planning on making money from WhatsApp (it hasn’t so far) by enabling people to buy things through it and contact businesses.
That’s when the proverbial hit the fan and a LOT of people left WhatsApp (or tried to) and moved to one of the other messaging apps that have been around for a while but most people didn’t know about them.
Hmm, to be honest, as you can probably tell already, I’ve never trusted their encryption anyway because, as I said above…Facebook!
WhatsApp already shares some personal data such as your phone number and IP address, with Facebook so frankly I think this latest move is a great wake-up call for all of us and a bit of a kick to move before they take even more of our lives from us.
So, if you feel like me about Facebook – and about handing your data to all and sundry generally – read on to find out where you could and should move to protect your information and ever-so-slightly reduce Mark Zuckerberg’s power over the planet.
Who knew? There are actually quite a few alternatives to WhatsApp.
Of course, they all have downsides, the main one for all of them being that it’s likely that most of your friends are not on them, but once you have chosen a platform to move to you will be able to persuade at least some of your friends to move with you, even if they stay on WhatsApp at the same time (that’s what’s happened to me).
Have a look at this list to see the pros and cons of the different platforms and then pick the one – or ones – that you like best,
Signal is free, available on Android, IOS and Web and is recommended by journalists and civil liberties organisations such as Bigbrotherwatch, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Edward Snowden because it’s an open-source product and does not belong to any one individual or corporation. Basically if you are concerned about your privacy (and you really should be) then this is the app that is the most recommended.
- Self-destructing messages
- Screen security (no one can take a screenshot)
- Has a desktop app like WhatsApp
- Encryption to its backups
- Free calls
- Group calls with up to 8 people
- Protection for files you send through the app.
- No connection to any data that will show your identity (particularly important for privacy)
It’s considered the best app for people who want to connect with others securely…..however…
Signal uses your phone number as your identity which has concerned some security advocates. However, they have introduced pin codes to bring in a more secure and private way of identifying users in the future.
There are serious rumours that Signal is actually monitored and run by the CIA. A friend of mine who used to work for the CIA told me that it was created by them. Then there is this report that the FBI can intercept messages on the Signal app. This is primarily because of potential vulnerabilities in the coding of the app apparently.
So, although contacts of mine at Bigbrotherwatch recommend using the app (and they did) it’s worth being aware of these rumours.
Telegram Messenger is the most popular of the WhatsApp competitors. It’s also free and available on Android, IOS, Windows Phone, Windows, macOS, Linux, and Web
If you’re not so concerned about privacy – and you basically just want to stick it to Facebook (fair enough) – then Telegram is the next best thing in terms of its functionality and the number of your friends who are likely to be on it. It’s become massively popular since the WhatsApp announcement and new people are joining every day.
It has the usual WhatsApp functions plus
- Super groups of up to 100,000 people
- Interesting voice call features
- Public channels
- Usernames so you don’t have to use your own
- The ability to share files of up to 1.5 GB,
- Passcode lock,
- Messages that self-destruct
- End-to-end encryption in secret chat
- Telegram Bots that bring importing information and also enable you to play games.
- The ability to be used on multiple platforms at once
Telegram is not seen as a secure and private messaging app. Its live location feature recently brought it under fire for infringement of privacy.. Also, Telegram stores messages online in the Cloud and therefore has access to every message you send. It says it won’t share them, but do we believe them?
The biggest downside as far as those interested in free speech and the protection of civil liberties is that Telegram was set up by Russians in 2013: Nikolai and Pavel Durov. Telegram’s office is in Dubai, but the app belongs to Russia. Hmm.
Keybase is free and available on Android, iOS, macOS, Linux, and Windows
This is another good one for those who are looking for security and less snooping. Itr’s an open-source secure chat app so there’s no private company which is looking at all your data.
- Data is end-to-end encrypted so no one other than your messagee can see it
- It doesn’t allow you or anyone to take a screenshot of chats
- You don’t need anyone’s number or email ID to connect so neither side knows much about the other.
The main downside here is that fewer people know about the app so it’s likely that most of your friends are not on it.
- It offers end-to-end encryption in calls, messages and any pics, video or text shared.
- Messages saved in various devices are encrypted
- Enables video and voice calls.
- Viber Out enables you to make international calls to non-Viber users cheaply
- It offers file-sharing
- Back to Google Drive
- A sticker store and Viber games
Again it’s the fact that fewer people use Viber that might put you off. However, as you can make calls to anyone at low rates, anywhere around the world, it’s probably worth having it anyway and gradually you can persuade your friends to join you.
Unusually, Threema actually costs – just $2.99) but it is aimed primarily at professionals who are particularly concerned about security. It’s available on Android, IOS and Web.
It is open-source and is really secure and should be particularly attractive to anyone who is concerned about privacy.
- Encrypts all the data including messages, shared files and status updates
- End-to-end encryption
- Does not collect metadata
- encrypted backup options
- Messaging features
- Ability to create a poll in groups
- Password or fingerp0rint-protect chats
- Anonymous chatting
- The ability to agree or disagree to a message.
- It has relatively few users so your friends are probably not on it
- There’s no free trial period (I hope they change this as it’s a big barrier to entry)
Kik is free to download and available on Android and IOS.
This app is best for people who don’t want to use their number to do messaging with other people. It offers
- Messaging with just your email ID
- Unique user name for you to share with other Kik users
- Text messages
- Emojis and stickers
- Photo and video-sharing
- Group chats
- Bots to play quizzes, get information and news
Parents say this is a dangerous app for children. It has become very popular with that age-group but police and educators have noticed a lot of kids being sent porn and other unsavoury messages as the senders can stay anonymous. See here for more information on that.
Snapchat, the social media app beloved of Gen Zers and Millennials also has a messaging function. It’s free to download on Android and IOS.
- Messages can self-destruct after a set period of time
- Notifications if someone screen-shots a chat
- Group chats
- Voice calls,
- Group voice calls
- Gifs and stickers
Frankly, if you’re over 25 you’re unlikely to have many close friends on Snapchat already. They might have it on their phones but probably don’t use it much. They might balk at using regularly something that’s ‘basically for the kids’. Still, any that need their messages to be wiped quickly (journalists, civil liberties campaigners etc) there is a lot to be said for this app.
It is particularly beloved of businesspeople and has the advantage of age that has enabled it to have a huge reach all over the world. It’s likely that many of your friends are already on it, even if they don’t use it so much now.
- Great video and voice calls
- Group video calls
- Back-up of chat history
- Call forwarding
- Record calls
- Edit sent messages
- Screen sharing
- File sharing
Just as with WhatsApp you are connected to the devil Facebook, so with Skype you are now overlooked by the equally wicked Microsoft. Pick your poison!
Delta Chat describes itself as being like Telegram or WhatsApp but working purely over email. It is an app but it doesn’t need your phone number – or the phone number of the people you chat to – to contact others. It just uses emails, and the people you contact don’t have to have the Delta app to receive your missives, just an email address. It’s available for free on Android, IOS and desktop.
- Super-secure and private. You own your data.
- End-to-end encryption
- Your data is not saved on a central server – just on the usual email servers
- No one sees your address book
- Huge user-base as anyone with an email address can be contacted
- Group chats
No calls or videos
Gosh yes – all the time!
That lovely, useful phone in your pocket that basically runs your life for you is also spying on you constantly.
Take a look at this vid where Edward Snowdon explains how you are carrying a mini ‘Big Brother’ at all times:
Now do you see the problem?
I’ll be writing again about how your phone is spying on you and what to do about it, but for the moment, go through all the apps in your phone and put as much you can onto ‘no’ and make sure that your location settings are off as often as possible.
While you’re at it, check the apps you have and see how many you can remove. The fewer you have the fewer are going to be spying on you.