Amnesty International has ranked Facebook’s messaging apps – WhatsApp and Messenger – as the most secure when it comes to instant messaging.
However, it is a bit weird to rank WhatsApp and Messenger as equals when it comes to offering secure communication when it is obvious that the two are quite different. The two apps share a user base of more than 2 billion users. However, it is only WhatsApp that explicitly warns users whenever they are sending a message to a device that does not support end-to-end encryption. The app also will also notify users whenever their chats are end-to-end encrypted. This is a default setting on WhatsApp, something you won’t find on Messenger.
WhatsApp has had end-to-end encryption for months now after rolling it out earlier this year. This feature can easily be noticed by any person using the app as it shows up at the beginning of every chat. If anything, these capabilities are what make the app more attractive to Amnesty International and its services. Usually, the organization encourages journalists and activists from all over the globe to make use of the most secure systems for communication so as to protect themselves. Apparently, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger are the way to go.
The strange part is where Amnesty International also considers Facebook Messenger as a much safer app than even iMessage and Telegram. Unlike WhatsApp, Messenger gained the support for end-to-end encryption a few weeks ago. Through a feature known as Secret Conversations, Messenger users can also send encrypted messages to other contacts, but this is not a default option like with the case of WhatsApp. To chat in private, one has to manually initiate the encrypted chat via the app’s Settings. In short, the Secret Conversations feature can only be used by those who know it actually exists.
The International organization ranked Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger at 73 while iMessage, Telegram as well as another Apple chat app, FaceTime, were ranked at 67. Still, this doesn’t mean the second-best apps are not secure – in fact, Telegram has been praised for its secure nature – something that even led to the app’s popularity. Apparently, the organization was unsatisfied with the fact that Apple’s iMessage does not warn you when you try to send a message to a non-encrypted phone.
If anything, Amnesty International is looking for apps that support end-to-end encryption by default and that users can be warned in case of a non-secure communication. Other companies that were also ranked include Google, Line, Viber, Microsoft as well as Snapchat, which scored a mere 26. According to the organization, the fact that Snapchat sells on the idea of having disappearing messages “may give users a false sense of privacy” since there is still no support for end-to-end encryption on the photo-sharing app.
Amnesty International wants all companies in the instant messaging business to include end-to-end encryption to the apps as a default setting as well as be more transparent with users of these apps regarding the level of security on offer.