Privacy gains traction with secure messaging apps

Feature articles |
By eeNews Europe

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.”

“The fact that we are an independent company without external funding and that our servers are located in Switzerland, where data protection laws are still pretty strict, might have added further to our popularity”, concluded Flepp.

What sort of impact do you think the mass adoption of secure communication could have on society? We asked. 


“More and more people now think twice before giving away private data. This growing awareness is a good thing. Using secure communication channels such as Threema is the best we can do at the moment. In the end it’s going to be an arms race between surveillance authorities and citizens”.

“People have a right to privacy. We give the society a tool to protect itself. At the end of the day each of us decides for its own. – It’s hard to say which impact the mass adoption of secure communication could have on society. We think it is definitely the better way to use secure communication than to contribute to data mining and to be exposed to the risk of arbitrary or possibly even abusive surveillance. A society built on mass surveillance and general distrust is probably not a place anyone would like to live in, anyway.”

See Threema’s promotional video clip

So does Flepp see a shift among Internet companies making business on end-user data mining?
“We don’t know how other companies make money in order to pay their bills. But you will probably agree, that there is a reason why many services in the internet and app industry are free. There’s no such thing as free lunch. The question everyone should ask is: How do these companies make money?

In the long run, we think that there will be a comeback of the conservative approach such as Threema’s: You pay a few bucks for a service so we can pay our bills with your money and not your private data.

The Threema app is available worldwide, an English language version has just been launched.

Related articles:

Cutting down on personal data leaks

Lost in Big Data: digital zombie

Personal data gets out of hands on remote IT systems, says Gartner

Data privacy a growing concern in smart grid implementation

Google gets another slap for its pervasive data gathering habits

Depth cameras interpret shoppers’ behaviour


Linked Articles
eeNews Europe