It’s no surprise encryption is under attack in a digital world where information is highly profitable. Knowledge is power and companies who traffic in personal data, like Facebook, know its value.
Privacy protection laws force social media companies to obtain permission before collecting marketing data from users, so encryption presents an obstacle. Facebook is researching how to get around this using artificial intelligence with homomorphic encryption. This technology would allow the company to read and analyze data without decrypting messages. It could be used to develop targeted advertising technology. Third-party companies could also analyze the data.
Other tech giants, including Microsoft, Amazon and Google, are working on homomorphic encryption. Although the ability to deploy this technology is still years away, Facebook could harvest insight across its direct message platforms with this approach, including Messenger and Instagram (which currently are not encrypted) as well as WhatsApp.
Clearly, there is a conflict between user privacy and the business model of tech corporations like Facebook. Despite Facebook’s repeated assurances to the contrary, how devoted to privacy can a company possibly be if they are working this hard to undermine it?
Legitimate Uses for Homomorphic Encryption
Homomorphic encryption isn’t inherently bad or necessarily a privacy loophole. There may be instances where homomorphic encryption could solve real problems. A medical researcher, for example, could collate information about patients, which may be useful for treatments, but the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act prevents the sharing of private medical data. In this example using a homomorphic encryption scheme would ostensibly retain user privacy while permitting the data to be reviewed for medical purposes. However, it introduces the possibility of misuse — especially when the companies using it are known for privacy breaches and security gaps.
ChatMail encrypted phones use the strongest cryptography available, layered within our impenetrable ChatMail Advanced Messaging and Parsing Protocol, using both PGP and ECC encryption.
Facebook claims to provide end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp, however, if your backups are stored on the cloud they are not encrypted – which means it is not secure.
Law enforcement agencies can use a search warrant to have Google or iCloud hand over this data WhatsApp data would show how many members a chat group has, how long the group has existed and how they interact with each other. The company collects the phone numbers and IP addresses of users, tracks how often they send outgoing messages, when they’re online, who they message, as well as their names and profile photos. It is easy to imagine how this information could be exploited.
Critics worry Facebook would optimize its platforms to harvest this data and for targeted advertising with ultra-precision.
WhatsApp alone has about two billion global users, many of whom conduct business on the platform and discuss a range of sensitive things under the belief they are protected by “end-to-end encryption.” It may be an old observation by now about how the internet works, but it still holds: if you are not paying for a product, you are the product, not the consumer.
Some telecom companies seem willing to work with legal authorities. Some wonder what’s wrong with private companies creating a backdoor into their platforms if it helps fight crime? The problem is the door is open to abuse and will not only target bad actors. Innocent activists, journalists and regular citizens will all lose their privacy with such measures. Companies would be unable to prevent their data from being accessed unscrupulously.
Facebooks relationship with the Indian government was on good terms when Mark Zuckerber launched the “Free Basics” program back in 2016. But that soon soured. WhatsApp is currently suing the Indian government after it asked for a fingerprint of every single message sent on the service. Facebooks’ falling out with the government coincided with India’s attempt to gain more control over social media. A raid on Twitter’s New Delhi office by Indian police left employees feeling frightened and intimidated.
Facebook policies are hypocritical. People it considered “dangerous” and in violation of their policies were nonetheless allowed to remain on the platform when they’re allied with the government. Contradictory policies like this erode public confidence if the company can’t even enforce its own policies fairly.
Credible evidence that supporters of Donald Trump used Facebook to plan an attempted coup on the US government January 6, 2021; resulting in the death of several civilians and police officers, including two who have since committed suicide. Facebook responded by banning Trump from the platform until 2023 — when the candidates for the next Federal US election will declare their nomination.
The company has publicly rejected responsibility for allowing such a violent attack to be planned on their platform, even while an internal task force at Facebook concluded the company didn’t do enough to halt the “Stop the Steal” groups.
Facebook has one privacy standard when authorities ask them for data and another when they’re asked to turn over information about themselves.
Staying Above the Fray
Facebook’s lack of transparency is an issue — from its methods for targeting user advertising to how it allows extremist groups on the platform — which has led to dangerous real-world consequences.
Anybody looking to stay entirely above the fray and conduct business and conversations safely needs an encrypted mobile phone centred around privacy and security rather than a platform that exists so the company can sell your private data for profit to advertisers. While encryption is complicated and keeps evolving, people understand the need for business security and privacy on a visceral level. Buy a Myntex phone that uses the strongest encryption possible and comes with many secondary security features to ensure you and your data are always safe.