A BRITISH cyber security expert has urged Facebook Messenger fans to quit the chat app as soon as possible.
Writing in Forbes this week, Zak Doffman implored users to switch to another service as Messenger no longer protects them from hackers.
That's because Facebook has delayed the rollout of key security updates to the platform described by the company's own executives as "essential".
It's one of three separate events to occur in recent weeks that Doffman says "should give you every reason you need" to bin the popular app.
"Unless we all 'vote with our feet,' choosing services that respect our privacy, then how can we expect those service providers to change?" Doffman, CEO of Brit surveillance tech firm Digital Barriers, wrote.
The first of the cyber expert's three gripes is Messenger's alleged decision to push back key security updates designed to protect its 1.3billion users.
Facebook won't release the updates until 2022 at the earliest, according to Doffman, although he provided no evidence for this claim.
The second of his three key events involved recent comments on privacy made by senior Facebook exec Will Cathcart.
Writing in Wired last week, Cathcart, who heads up WhatsApp, issued a rallying cry for netizens to stick to chat encrypted chat services.
Apps like WhatsApp offer end-to-end encryption technology that ensures messages cannot be read by hackers, or even WhatsApp itself.
Messenger, on the other hand, does not provide end-to-end encryption, meaning user chats are neither private nor secure, Doffman said.
"I agree with Cathcart," Doffman wrote. "End-to-end encryption is absolutely critical."
His third reason to leave Messenger is Facebook's poor track record on user privacy, which was recently dragged into the spotlight once again.
The details of more than 530million Facebook users were last week found available on a website for hackers.
People's phone numbers, Facebook IDs, names and more were scraped from the social media platform and published online.
Even Mark Zuckerberg was caught up in the drama after it emerged that the Facebook boss's phone number was exposed in the leak.
The company has tried to reassure users, saying that the data was leaked in 2019 and has since been secured.
"The issue wasn’t so much the data exposure this time, but rather the response," Doffman wrote.
WhatsApp – a quick history
Here’s what you need to know…
- WhatsApp was created in 2009 by computer programmers Brian Acton and Jan Koum – former employees of Yahoo
- It's one of the most popular messaging services in the world
- Koum came up with the name WhatsApp because it sounded like "what's up"
- After a number of tweaks the app was released with a messaging component in June 2009, with 250,000 active users
- It was originally free but switched to a paid service to avoid growing too fast. Then in 2016, it became free again for all users
- Facebook bought WhatsApp Inc in February 2014 for $19.3billion (£14.64bn)
- The app is particularly popular because all messages are encrypted during transit, shutting out snoopers
- As of 2020, WhatsApp has over 2billion users globally
"Facebook has been heavily criticized for playing down the seriousness of this data exposure and for not informing all of those impacted users."
Taken together, Doffman encouraged Messenger to users to make their feelings known by quitting Messenger in favour of more secure apps.
"You now have the tools and the information to make informed choices about the apps and services you use, and how you use them," he wrote.
A Facebook spokesperson told The Sun: "Messenger already offers two end-to-end encryption options for to your one-on-one chats, Secret Conversations and vanish mode.
"While we will continue to make progress on our move to end-to-end encryption by default, it’s a big technical project and all of our messaging services won’t be fully end-to-end encrypted until sometime in 2022 at the earliest.”
It's not the first time that Doffman has taken Facebook to task over its troubling privacy terms.
Writing in Forbes in January, the cyber expert slammed Messenger's "alarming" data-hoarding practices.
Facebook openly admits to reading private texts sent over Messenger and using their contents to better target ads at users, he wrote.
The app even downloads file attachments sent between texters to its own servers, as well as links to file shares and websites.
Location data, your contacts, purchase history, search history, browse history and much more are also collected by the app.
"We all know Facebook makes its living from our data – that’s how we pay for its 'free' services," Doffman wrote. "But there does need to be a limit."
In other news, Messenger recently came under fire for its lax attitude to user privacy.
Here's everything you need to know about Signal, which reported thousands of new users last week.
And, a bizarre bug reported this month could have let strangers read your private WhatsApp chats.
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