Brandon Toner

Private and secure messaging should be the default.


I’ve decided that I want to try to increase the amount of time that I use private, secure modes of communication rather than utilizing convenient Big Tech platforms.

Most people that I interact with regularly use a combination of text/SMS, iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Instagram DMs, Snapchat, WhatsApp and email. These options are convenient, free, and already have a large user-base. The convenience and ubiquity of these tools makes switching a challenge. It’s annoying to have to download another app to simply chat with somebody.

Why bother?

The tradeoff for using convenient and free tools, is usually your privacy and data. Big Tech companies use your data for different purposes, including developing a high resolution profile of you that can be used in ways that might not align with your interests. Who you are, where you live, who you interact with, what you like, your habits and patterns, virtues, vices, and more. This data could be used or sold to advertisers and other third parties to target you with increasingly precise advertisements. Or they could be used to manipulate your thinking and behaviour through targeting content recommendations.

The question is: Is this how you want your personal information to be used? Do you trust Big Tech companies to use your data in ways that will serve you? Or are you better off minimizing your exposure to this data market?

My choice — I would prefer to gradually opt-out and avoid handing off my data just because it’s convenient or common practice.

Options to minimize Better alternatives

Making the change

While there is a lot of inertia for using the commonly used tools — switching is not that hard. Easiest path to me seems to be downloading Signal and moving chat over there as much as possible. It has achieved feature-parity in lots of ways, so you’re not really sacrificing much by using it. It's also free and increasingly popular.

With most people stuck in their ways or not bothered by sharing their personal data with Big Tech (since that’s what everyone is accustomed to do), change is likely to be slow. Most folks don’t want to download a new app just to communicate with a few contacts.

That being said, the small steps are worth it to regain a bit of internet-sovereignty over time. With more awareness of the issues and the costs of lost-privacy, more people will be interested in seeking healthier alternatives.

See also

© 2024 Brandon Toner