These days, it seems like no one is safe from the malicious work of hackers: Hillary Clinton, Yahoo, Sony Pictures — even you. In the growing digital age, hacks have become increasingly common, and so have concerns over data security.
Do You Know What Data You’re Sharing?
According to WhatsApp, the information being shared with Facebook includes your phone number and “usage data.” However, experts suggest that a lot more might be shared than you think, like who WhatsApp users communicate with and how often, and any online activity on platforms connected to users’ WhatsApp accounts. WhatsApp’s new policy says users’ information is being used to fight WhatsApp spam, and to inform targeted Facebook ads and friend suggestions. While sharing your data for these purposes might seem harmless, we’ve all seen the nasty aftermath when information from one’s online past is dug up and made public.
There are also security risks of WhatsApp beyond its relationship with Facebook. While messages are now encrypted end-to-end, this feature is essentially useless when you consider that a surveillance software called CatchApp claims to be able to pull encrypted WhatsApp information from phones within close proximity. Another privacy threat includes the fact that if your physical smartphone is misplaced, access to your WhatsApp account can end up in the wrong hands, not to mention the potential for phishing.
Concerned about violations of their consumer and data protection laws, India and Germany have issued court orders that forbid WhatsApp to share user data with Facebook in their respective countries — and to delete data they have already obtained. Other nations are also investigating to see if they should follow suit, including the U.S., U.K., Italy, and Spain. The fact that many government officials around the world use WhatsApp at work only worsens the matter.
Data: Like Dust in the Wind
If the security controversy surrounding WhatsApp is something you can’t wait for your government to take a stance on, there are other options for your communication needs like Viber and Google Allo. However, we have found that the messaging app, Dust (formerly called Cyber Dust), is the best choice for maintaining privacy. Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban created the app after his own private messaging and email data was used against him in an SEC trial where he was falsely accused of insider trading. After the experience, Cuban realized that with existing channels of communication, users surrender control and ownership of their messages to the recipient and platform. Dust attempts to bring possession back to the user to create a safer place to text.
According to Dust, the app allows people to communicate with each other without leaving a trace of the conversation. Dust does not record or store any of its users’ data on its servers, and messages are heavily encrypted so not even the platform has access to them. Messages automatically erase after 24 hours, but users can delete messages on their phones and on recipients’ phones whenever they’d like. There is even a setting that erases messages as soon as they are read. So if you want to get rid of your texts, you can be sure that they’re gone forever. Your identity is also kept anonymous, even in screenshots, so information cannot be traced back to you.
The app was recently revamped and is now available for iOS and Android. There is also a plan in the works to create a Web version. We will warn you that Dust takes some time to get used to, but it’s definitely worth it to protect you and your messaging data. While the app has yet to really take off, we can see its popularity growing in the future as people seek peace of mind in an unsecure cyber world.