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Open Whisper Systems

By Jon Dron 20 November 2016 @ 1:08pm Comments (2)

The Signal protocol is designed for secure, private, encrypted messaging and real-time calling. The protocol, designed by Open Whisper Systems, is used in an increasingly large range of tools (including by Facebook and Google), but their own app is the most interesting application of it. 

The (open, GPL) Signal app is a secure, private messaging and voice chat app for iOS and Android, offering guaranteed and strong end-to-end encryption without having to sign up for a service with dubious privacy standards or further agendas (e.g. Facebook, Apple, Google, Whatsapp, Viber etc). No ads, no account details kept by the company, no means for them (or anyone) to store or intercept messages or calls, the organization is funded by donations and grants. The app uses your phonebook to discover other contacts using Signal - I don't have many yet, but hopefully a few of my contacts will see this and install it. Call quality seems excellent - as good as Skype used to be before Microsoft maimed it - though I haven't used it enough yet to assess its reliability. One disadvantage is that, if you have more than one phone and phone number, there seems to be no obvious way to link them together. That's a particular nuisance on a dual-SIM phone.

It needs a real, verified phone number to get started but, once you have done that, you can link it to other devices too, including PCs (via Chrome or a Chrome-based browser like the excellent Vivaldi), using a simple QR code (no accounts!) so this is a potentially great replacement for things like Whatsapp, Skype, Allo, Viber, etc. No video calling yet, though you can send video messages (and most other things).



  • EFF talks about it too, but see the note at the end of article. Fact is, 100% privacy isn't achievable, and even Tor needs "special care" in order to protect against replay attacks.

    Viorel Tabara November 20, 2016 - 6:41pm

  • Indeed. What I really like about Signal, though, rather than its security and privacy (which are definitely good things to cherish) are its freedoms: freedom from any profit motivation, freedom of its code, freedom from the possibility of exploitation. I am deeply fed up with cloud 'services' that, thanks to the driving force of capitalist economics, provide more service to the supplier than the consumer, and that are consequently very fragile, highly prone to abuse, and destructively competitive, with proprietary lock-in pretty much a given. It seems to me that basic internet infrastructure should either be more like a public service or, if it must be privately owned, then open competition, with open interoperable standards, without proprietary lock-in, is critical. 

    Jon Dron November 22, 2016 - 11:12am

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