Privacy gains traction with secure messaging apps

September 23, 2014 // By Julien Happich
In 2012, three young software engineers in Switzerland created their own secure mobile messaging app called Threema, with the clear goal give users a tool to prevent their personal data to be stored, mined and possibly abused by big corporations and government agencies.

With privacy rights gaining attention and tales of data misuse in the news, the app attracted 3 million users to date, most of them over the last few months. Available for less than two euros, Threema became the most popular secure instant messenger in Germany and topped the download charts in German speaking countries for months according to Roman Flepp, Threema's Head of Marketing.

There are already many encryption services around, some more expensive, others open source and free to distribute, such as Tox -, OpenPeer - / or Pretty Easy Privacy - now running a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo just to name a few.

So what could explain the popularity of this particular application today, ease of use for one?

“Ease of use is probably just one factor. Another important one is the possibility to use Threema anonymously” wrote us Flepp in an email exchange.

“Unlike other secure messengers, we do not use a mobile phone number (which can be easily traced to a real person) as a "primary key" to identify users but a randomly assigned 8 digit ID. This makes the «centralized hackable platform» much less of a problem than with traditional concepts”, he continued.

“Even if the server platform was hacked there's not much there to see since we do not store any meta data. Our architecture shifts most of the tasks normally done on a server, such as maintaining lists of group members, to the clients (i.e. the app itself). The role of the server is basically reduced to that of a buffer to temporarily hold the encrypted messages until the chat partners is back online.”

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