Why Messaging Apps Should Have End-to-End Encryption

Your message history could be an open book

Key Takeaways

  • Google is adding end-to-end encryption to its Android Messages app.
  • Experts say encrypted messaging should be a main feature users look for in messaging apps, as it helps ensure their data is protected.
  • Without end-to-end encryption, users have to worry about hackers intercepting and collecting any data they share via texts or messaging apps.
Digital generated image of data

Andriy Onufriyenko / Getty Images

You may want to think about changing your default messaging app if you aren’t using one with end-to-end encryption.

Consumer privacy has been making big strides, and users running an Android phone are about to get access to another key privacy feature thanks to Google’s Android Messages app. The company revealed in mid-June that it plans to bring end-to-end encryption to its Messages app, something experts say every smartphone user should be taking advantage of.

"Among other things, end-to-end encryption facilitates actual data protection and privacy. People can rest assured that no one else can read their messages except for the intended recipient," Amir Ish-Shalom, vice president platform at Viber, told Lifewire in an email. "Anyone concerned about their privacy should be sure to use messaging services that provide end-to-end encryption."

All or Nothing

With so much of a push towards user privacy happening across the tech industry, if you’re still using a messaging app that doesn’t support end-to-end encryption, you could be putting your information in harm’s way.

"Just how much of your day-to-day messaging are you willing to let a complete stranger read?"

It’s easy to stay connected with friends, family, and even people like roommates. So, what happens when you aren’t using a messaging app with end-to-end encryption and you share specific details about yourself or someone else? You open it up for anyone that has the know-how to intercept and collect that data.

Cybercriminals are always on the lookout for login details, personal information, or anything else you may share in text messages or social media messengers. While those messages might be considered "direct" or "private," most of them don’t offer any kind of protection.

Protecting Yourself

Additionally, Ish-Shalom recommends users look for explicit proof from developers that their apps support end-to-end encryption before just assuming so.

"If an app doesn’t clearly specify that messages are end-to-end encrypted, users should be very cautious about the information that they share with others on that platform," he explained.

"You might not care if a third-party can read your message wishing your aunt a happy birthday, but just how much of your day-to-day messaging are you willing to let a complete stranger read? It is something of an all-or-nothing situation, and that’s something to think about."

It’s also worth noting that some third-party apps will collect the information that you share to sell to advertisers. Ish-Shalom says this can result in you receiving ads for things you’ve chatted about with others.

Options Abound

Of course, the nice thing about end-to-end encryption is that a lot of companies are starting to offer it in their apps. While Google might just now be adding it to Android Messages, there are plenty of others out there who already take advantage of this benefit on similar messaging platforms.

Viber, for example, uses end-to-end protection for all of its messaging systems. Other apps that offer similar protection include Telegram and Signal. WhatsApp is another popular messaging app that utilizes end-to-end encryption on its messages, though it’s worth noting the app collects more metadata on you than any of the others mentioned so far. With that in mind, there are options out there, if you’re looking to protect the information you’re sharing through messages.

Users running an Android phone have plenty of messaging apps with encryption built-in, and it’s something you should absolutely take advantage of. With Google’s Android Messages app becoming the stock messages app across many brands, and now with end-to-end encryption, it will be easier than ever to hop aboard the privacy train and protect yourself.

Even if you’re one of the many not using an Android phone, end-to-end encryption could still be something you’re already benefiting from. Apple’s iPhones already utilize encryption with iMessage, for example. Or, if you’d like, you can always download one of the many options named above and connect with users across platforms to ensure your data is always safe from being harvested.

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