Amnesty Calls Out Lack Of Privacy In Instant Messaging

social-lgIn today’s digital age, more and more people jump on the social media bandwagon without giving it too much thought. We often quickly set up accounts on  popular platforms without understanding how they can infringe on our privacy.

Sure, we may know at this point to be careful about the kinds of photos we share on Facebook in case they get back to an employer. But many assume that social media services automatically conceal what we share via instant messaging from the eyes of an unwanted third party.

However, Amnesty International recently exposed certain messaging services for not being as private as you may like to think.

Snapchat and Skype rank among the popular services that Amnesty says have failed to take steps to ensure its users’ privacy.  Amnesty’s concerns lie with how a lack of privacy plays out on a human rights scale. According to the organization, activists remain particularly vulnerable to spying from criminals and the government if their privacy remains unsecured.

This news hugely impacts the millennial generation. Young people frequently share personal information and photos over instant messaging services and apps such as Snapchat.

In Amnesty’s assessment, which looked at the most popular messaging services in the world, Facebook and Apple received the highest scores for their security. Snapchat came out on the other end of the spectrum, scoring low for protecting its users’ privacy. Amnesty assessed services including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, iMessage, FaceTime, and more.

Need for “End-to-End Encryption”

So why did Amnesty feel the need to call out these services?

Their main complaint lies with apps that don’t have “end-to-end encryption” set as their default. End-to-end encryption can be largely trusted as secure because it ensures that the only people who can read a message are the recipients and senders. In other words, if you’re not directly communicating with someone, you won’t be able to access their messages. Encryption scrambles data that composes messages, and blocks anyone who tries to secretly gain access to others’ messages. Amnesty called for end to end encryption to be a “minimum requirement” on instant messaging services.

Amnesty also drew attention to the contradictory messages certain companies seem to be sending about privacy. While some claim their apps will ensure users’ privacy, they don’t. Alternatively, many companies fail to communicate how they’re working to protect privacy at all.

This might not be new information for those already skeptical of social media. However, Millennials and other users of these services must exercise caution when sending messages — not everything may be as private as they might think.

For more on this story, visit the CBC.

Featured image source: Snapchat

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