No Surveillance State Month, Part 8: Encrypted Text Messages

Locked PhoneText messages are an awesome way of communicating with friends and family. They’re short, to the point, and you don’t end up stuck on the line for 30 minutes hearing about someone’s bad break-up.

But, they’re prime targets for government interception. First, they’re small, so they’re easy to store en masse. While a minute of phone conversation might take up a few hundred thousand kilobytes, a text message with metadata would take up around 0.2 kilobytes. Second, text messages are easily searchable. While computers have difficulty turning voice into searchable text, text messages are already text, making it easy for the government to search for anything from “Allahu Ackbar” to “I think that the Patriot Act is un-American.” And, like phone calls, text messages are great ways to build databases of who your “associates” (read: friends and family) are, as well as your location information calculated by the cell towers.

There are a ton of services that offer to send your text messages using encryption, generally for free. Here are a few that I found (and for which I have no association and get no commission):

  • WhatsApp (free, all major devices)
  • Black SMS (free, iPhone only)
  • Seecrypt (as discussed yesterday, also good for calls — $3/month)

If you know of other good services please post in the comments and I’ll update the thread.

This is one of a 30-part series, “No Surveillance State Month,” where daily for the month of June I’ll be posting ways to avoid invasion of your privacy in the digital age. The intent of these posts is not to enable one to escape detection while engaging in criminal activity — there’s still the old-fashioned “send a detective to watch you” for which these posts will not help. Rather, this series will help you to opt-out of the en masse collection of data by the government and large corporations that places Americans in databases without their knowing and freely-given consent for indefinite time periods. We all have the right to privacy, and I hope you demand it.

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