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Shoot the Messenger: How Chat Apps Are Security Hellholes

There are dozens of texting options available. Here are several options with different capabilities. Unfortunately, many of the apps (or their parent companies) can be used for terrible evil.
 
By
Stever Robbins,
Episode #528
image of chat apps like whatsapp and facebook messenger

This episode was supposed to be a simple round-up of chat apps. It became a nightmare of unspeakable evil, as you’ll soon learn. We’ll still highlight chat apps, but rather than discussing features, we’ll learn what you might want to be concerned about when choosing them. 

Voice Communication Gave Us Protection

Only 15 years ago, we talked by phone. We expected privacy and security. Wire-tapping was expensive and required a warrant. Recording without notice was illegal. Laws protected us from the gross misuse of our communications.

Our modern tools are chat apps. They do what phones couldn’t: they break all those expectations, while promoting misunderstanding at unprecedented levels. We call this "progress."

With that in mind, let’s chat about chat apps.

Know Which Apps Your Contacts Use

Chat may still be the most popular use of the internet. But there are dozens of chat apps, and different people use different apps.

When you meet someone, record how they like to communicate in their address book entry. When you want to communicate with them, just look at their address book and go.

Pretty much all chat apps let you send long text messages, pictures, video clips, stickers (which are really just pictures), and audio clips. Most also allow group chats. Any chat app that doesn’t do those things is pathetic and not worthy of mention. But each one has its own special features, and many have sinister shadow sides.

An Incomplete List of Chat Apps (and Their Dark Sides)

  1. Text Messages (“SMS”)
  2. Apple Messages
  3. Skype
  4. WhatsApp
  5. Signal
  6. Facebook Messenger
  7. Google Chat and Hangouts
  8. SnapChat
  9. Confide
  10. Kik
  11. WeChat

Let's explore each in more detail.

1. Text Messages (“SMS”)

The most basic chat app is your cell company’s text messaging, called SMS for Short Messaging Service. Android and iOS smartphones let you send long messages. You can also send multimedia messages including pictures, audio, and group chats. All this travels over the phone network. It’s not particularly secure, messages aren’t encrypted, and your phone company may keep copies of everything. Depending on your phone plan, you may be charged based on how much you send and receive. 

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