Snapchat, Microsoft’s Skype and WeChat are placed among the least secure messaging apps and face constant threat of attack from cyber criminals and spying by state authorities, Amnesty International’s ‘Message Privacy Ranking’ revealed.
The organization’s new ‘Message Privacy Ranking’ assessed 11 companies with the most popular messaging apps on the way they use encryption to protect users’ privacy and freedom of expression across their messaging apps.
The human rights organization placed Chinese firm Tencent (producer of WeChat) on bottom, scoring zero out of 100, Tencent was ranked as the company taking least action on messaging privacy, and the least transparent.
It was followed by Blackberry and Snapchat scoring 20 and 26 respectively.
“Despite Microsoft’s strong policy commitment to human rights, it is still using a weak form of encryption on Skype, scoring 40 and leaving it four places from the bottom,” says Amnesty International.
“If you think instant messaging services are private, you are in for a big surprise. The reality is that our communications are under constant threat from cybercriminals and spying by state authorities. Young people, the most prolific sharers of personal details and photos over apps like Snapchat, are especially at risk,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Head of Amnesty International’s Technology and Human Rights Team.
Facebook was ranked on top, as its Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp together have the highest score 73 out of 100. Facebook is doing the most out of the 11 companies assessed to use encryption to respond to human rights threats, and is most transparent about the action it’s taking.
However, despite including end-to-end encryption as an option with its new “secret conversation” feature, Facebook Messenger’s default mode uses a weaker form of encryption, which means Facebook has access to all the data.
WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption by default and notably provides clear information to users about encryption within the app.
Apple scored 67 out of 100, providing full end-to-end encryption in all communications on its iMessage and Facetime apps.
“Most technology companies are simply not up to standard when it comes to protecting their users’ privacy. Activists around the world rely on encryption to protect themselves from spying by authorities, and it is unacceptable for technology companies to expose them to danger by failing to adequately respond to the human rights risks,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali.
“The future of privacy and free speech online depends to a very large extent on whether tech companies provide services that protect our communications, or serve them up on a plate for prying eyes.”
Encryption helps protect people’s human rights online. By rendering digital data unintelligible, encryption helps ensure that private information sent over the internet stays private.
Amnesty International’s ‘Message Privacy Ranking’ ranks technology companies on a scale of one to 100 based on how well they do five things:
- Recognize online threats to their users’ privacy and freedom of expression
- Apply end-to-end encryption as a default
- Make users aware of threats to their rights, and the level of encryption in place
- Disclose details of government requests to the company for user data, and how they respond
- Publish technical details of their encryption systems