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Mobile Friday: WhatsApp Alternatives Not Really Safe

WhatsApp now belongs to Facebook and the acquisition has raised some serious concerns regarding the privacy of the app’s users. Facebook is not really commenting on the issue, causing more and more people to look at alternate solutions. Unfortunately, the alternatives are not really secure.

Compatible with Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, Blackberry and even the outdated Symbian, WhatsApp has over 450 million active users. It’s estimated that more than a million people download the app and start using the chat client every day.

But the security issues with WhatsApp just can’t be ignored. There is no end-to-end encryption, giving Facebook full access to the users conversations and data shared via the app. The bad news is that the top alternative IM solutions aren’t much safer.

A brief look at some potential WhatsApp replacements that are doing well today:

Blackberry Messenger – Blackberry revived its once mainstream IM client and released it for other mobile platforms such as Android and iOS. The app is not open source and cannot be analyzed completely, but hints of partial encryption were found by the researchers. To make matters worse, BBM has the permissions to forward data to third-parties.

Line – Headquartered in Japan, this IM app has over 50 million active users in the Land of the Rising Sun and a total 300 million registrants worldwide. The Android variant of Line has a serious security glitch. The IMEI number of the phone is sent with every message. The Japanese company also reserves its rights to change privacy policy without notice.

Telegram – Founded by two Russian businessmen, this free IM client doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption. Thankfully, this can be fixed by selecting the “Secret Chat” option in the settings. The term and conditions during installation ask the user to expose their user directory entries. Despite the safe end-to-end communication, privacy is compromised.

On the bright side, one IM platform was found to be better than the ones mentioned above.

Threema – Unlike the competition, this application employs complete end-to-end encryption between all communicants. The iOS version sends the user ID to the app servers, but this is not an issue as the data is encrypted. User consent is required for access to the address book, another welcome feature in the Instant Messaging market.

The choice of apps for Instant Messaging is wide and diverse, with many worthy options in the market. But all users must keep in mind that security is not always top priority for the software vendors and distributers. It’s eventually up to the user to safeguard his privacy and the choice of software should be made in an educated and calculated manner.

Source – WhatsApp Rivals Analysis

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