Privacy SOS

Text and call your friends all over the world, securely and for free

Hooray! Whisper Systems' Signal app for iPhone has been updated to include encrypted text services.

Now iPhone users can download one free app to securely message and call friends and associates. Whisper Systems' secure Android apps Text Secure and RedPhone are fully compatible with Signal.

For too long, encryption technology has been too unwieldy and difficult for the ordinary user. But Signal couldn't be simpler.

Whisper Systems describes what it does and doesn't do:

Signal uses your existing phone number and address book. There are no separate logins, usernames, passwords, or PINs to manage or lose.

We cannot hear your conversations or see your messages, and no one else can either. Everything in Signal is always end-to-end encrypted, and painstakingly engineered in order to keep your communication safe.

Signal has been designed for the mobile environment from the ground up. Messages and incoming calls are fully asynchronous; push notifications let you know when new messages have arrived, so they’ll be waiting for you if the app is in the background, your battery dies, or you temporarily lose service.

In short: Signal works just like the regular messaging and phone apps on your iPhone, except it encrypts the content of your communications.

Even better, in-app international calls and messages are free just like domestic chats and calls. The only thing you'll get charged for is the data you use to access the internet. The technology is open source, meaning you can examine the code yourself to make sure there aren't any 'backdoors' into the cryptography.

There's a big disclaimer, though. Users must keep in mind that while Signal will most likely protect the content of your communications from spies and police, it won't protect the fact of your communications. The metadata—the who, what, and when—isn't shielded from prying eyes. That means you can speak a little more freely, but you shouldn't expect that the Feds won't show up at your door if you call someone they think is a terrorist.

Go to the App store right now and download Signal, if you haven't already. Then tell everyone you know to download it, as well. The app only works if both parties have Signal (or Text Secure and RedPhone) installed.

The federal government keeps trying to scare the public about encryption technology. But privacy is a human right, and encrypted communications protect it. We should all flex that right every time we message or call someone.

If you do so, you won't just be helping yourself. The benefits of widespread encryption use go beyond protecting your individual communications from snoops. Encryption prevents dragnet content surveillance, making truly Draconian, vacuum-style content surveillance ineffective. Widespread encryption adoption also makes it harder for the government to act like privacy is dangerous. After all, if everyone encrypts, how can the FBI argue cryptography is just for terrorists and criminals?

So do it for yourself, the future, and society: Use safe communications technologies!

Happy secure messaging!

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.