Encrypted-messaging apps everywhere — Privacy vs. monetization
- Recent events — such as account restrictions stemming from the US Capitol riots, and WhatsApp’s privacy update enabling data-sharing with Facebook (now delayed) — have resulted in tens of millions of users looking for alternatives to the leading messaging apps.
- These events have caused the user bases of alternative encrypted-messaging apps Signal and Telegram to “explode.” Telegram, for instance, added 125M+ users in Jan 2021 to reach 525M+ monthly active users.
- For messaging apps, there is a clear tradeoff between features and privacy. When all the interactions on an app are end-to-end encrypted and very little metadata is captured, the data can’t be the business model — so the options are mainly paid subscriptions or donations. As a result, many messaging apps are tying their business models to the parts of their service that are not end-to-end encrypted, from advertising to social commerce.
- Encrypted-messaging apps are becoming major channels for propaganda and misinformation. Russia, for instance, lifted its ban on Telegram last year and the app is now used by state-sponsored outlets to disseminate propaganda. “Information operations” are being deployed in private groups and public channels all over the world.
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