Alternatives to WhatsApp? (note on financing)

One thing I have learned about the internet is that there are a lot of sites that give out insane advice, especially when it comes to science, medicine, and technology. Many businesses rely on content that is openly or covertly sponsored by the maker of something promoted in the article. For example, I don’t know if they always do it, but PC Mag often did. Recently, I was looking for safer and more private alternatives to Chrome, and I found many “best” articles that still listed browsers with known privacy and / or security issues. It’s hard to discern which places are reliable, and which are either paid or just listed without serious research. With that in mind, please don’t give me links like this: Startupslash.

I’m not a security expert so I need help from people who are. This is why I came to Bleeping Computer. I know Lawrence and his team are trusted experts. If you are not an expert in this field, I would rather you did not answer, and I would prefer if you were certified or could easily demonstrate your competence. No offense, I don’t want a regular user to throw unnecessary links at me. What are the best alternatives to WhatsApp?

Please do not hesitate to correct me if you find any errors or omissions.

Alternatives

I was directed to this board of whatsapp suitors. This includes showing if a program is in a 5/9/14 eye nation. Previously this showed that Signal, Threema, and Wickr Me were the most secure and private alternatives to WhatsApp, but now it looks like Briar Project is, by far, the better option, with BabelNet and SafeSwiss being the finalists who are up for grabs. lagging behind because of using Google products. The author also provided a list of products that were rejected in another article, with a modest amount of information on why. Unfortunately, this list includes products that you have to pay for, which I think is wrong. Then again, maybe the author didn’t have the money to research the paid products. I noticed that VPNMentor recommended Riot.IM, which is not on the chart or the rejected pages.

It seems to me that unless you are a criminal or live in a country with an oppressive government, you wouldn’t have to worry about choosing a messaging app with the perfect solution. The main thing we should be concerned about is that criminals cannot hide behind an impenetrable barrier and communicate, plot and carry out criminal activity without any means of collecting data on them. And, oh, let’s not let other people get rich selling our data. If they want to sell our data, they should generously reward us for it. Not a fast food coupon, raffle ticket, $ 20 long distance card, or some other shitty reward excuse.

Then again, with America’s long history of abuse of its citizens and the world at large, perhaps we need to keep our private messages safe.

Weaknesses

The biggest issues that seem to exist when choosing a chat app are, as far as I know:

  1. How many people are using it and what is the likelihood of them using it. Signal and others solve this problem by unlocking SMS (SMS) by default, unless the other person also has the same program, and some don’t even automatically switch encryption. Disabling it by default, with or without automatic failover, allows Signal users to send text messages to anyone, even if they only have the standard SMS app included with all phones and tablets. Programs that do not have this feature, or that do not offer the ability to turn it off for recipients who do not have their program tend to be left out.
  2. The software is centralized in a country that actively spies on its citizens (5 eyes, 9 eyes, 14 eyes, China, North Korea, etc.) and eventually shares this data with other countries.
  3. The software is owned by a company that collects and sells data on its users (Facebook / Facebook Messenger / Instagram / WhatsApp, Google, etc.)
  4. The software uses weak encryption (eg RSA 1024 PKI, RC4 + and other old encryptions).
  5. The software is closed or partially closed source. I could explain why this is not necessarily a real problem (in some cases).
  6. Collection of personal data (i.e. phone number or email address for registration) and use of this data in a unique identifier, or unsecured storage online and / or on the device . Ironically, I * think * it’s this same data collection that helps businesses ensure that you connect with who you think they are, instead of someone else masquerading as your contact / friend / family member, as well as encryption and the like to prevent attacks like MitM.
  7. Online / unsecured device storage of SMS, MMS, voice chats, etc.
  8. Trackers
  9. Funding models
  10. And a few other things, like ephemeral messaging, the server company used, privacy and TOS, other security issues …

Funding

And that brings me to the sidebar. I’m not a financial assistant either, but when I see a business (like WhatsApp) that doesn’t:

  • Sell ​​user data (yay!);
  • Sell ​​features (why not?); and
  • Display advertisements

Yes, I know there are other ways to have money to pay for servers, programmers, customer service, management, etc. such as a parent company that sells products and / or services and uses part of its income to fund a particular business (Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army and others do); investors; donations; loans and so on.

I start to ask why. Unless it’s a nonprofit that collects donations to keep going, or it’s funded in perpetuity by a foundation or a super rich person or company (which would also make me nervous ), the business cannot run on fumes, love and goodwill. . This is what WhatsApp did and as far as I know it convinced investors to join because its user base kept growing. Seen from the outside (i.e. I don’t know the details, for example if Acton and Koum had always intended to sell to the highest bidder in order to reimburse the investors, and the $ 19 million Facebook are A LOT), the model they were using (ignoring the $ 1 fee they sometimes charged) looked like a Ponzi scheme, although I’m not sure there were any payments / dividends to the investors until they sell WA.

What’s the deal with ads, other than people finding them boring? Unless the ad service does not monitor fraudulent ads leading to malware infested sites, crooks, and other malicious actors leading to abuse, ads are a great way to generate revenue to pay for money. free services.

What’s wrong with paid features? Slack and Discord do and I don’t hear anyone complaining about it. The sad truth is that many companies that also sell data (or exploit it illegally, as Facebook has done in the past through FB and WA) sell features and / or serve ads.

Don’t get me wrong: I hate seeing ads, but I would much prefer this and some paid features to selling my data. I don’t think it’s fair that a huge amount of data is collected and sold, making people rich so that we can use free products.

Thank you for your help!

Published by RevGAM, October 02, 2021 – 18:56.


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