Time to take our ePrivacy back

(A version of this article was originally published at https://blog.mailfence.com/time-take-eprivacy-back/)

We are already living in the future. Humans attacking robots, fridges leaking your passwords, mattresses that can tell you if your partner is cheating on you , dolls that can be used to listen to your children and “social networks” that experiment with your moods. How should the “real future” look like? That is the debate we are having right now.

After the adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the EU will benefit from a (semi) harmonised set of rules to regulate how personal data can be used. But what about your right to privacy and the confidentiality of your communications? Will they be protected? Although the GDPR covers a wide range of uses of your personal data, another piece of legislation (called ePrivacy) regulates specific aspects of electronic communications.

The updated ePrivacy Regulation will deal with new aspects such as the Internet of Things, communication via messengers like WhatsApp, Signal, Facebook Messenger etc, tracking walls (the current status being “accept advertising, malware and viruses or you won’t be able to read the news”) and who can read your emails or access your devices. Should your email provider read your email to show personalised advertising? Should WhatsApp use your contact list to suggest new friends on Facebook? Should newspapers know what you read and which other websites you visit? That is the debate we are having now.

Unfortunately, the discussion has been dominated by the tracking and advertising industry based on a series of myths and on misleading data that has created a feeling that the digital media industry will be killed . However, as the Eurobarometer survey has shown, “72% of European citizens stated that it is very important that the confidentiality of their e-mails and online instant messaging is guaranteed”. By not having strong privacy laws we are being controlled by a duopoly of advertisers who will benefit from the millions of Europeans who can access the internet. On the other hand, by ensuring that ePrivacy goes beyond what the current legislation does and covers current gaps we can set higher standards for the EU, and indirectly for the rest of the world and take our ePrivacy back.

Read more:


Use Signal for all your communications, also on your desktop

One key advice I give to everyone who has a minimum interest in protecting their privacy is using Signal as a messaging app alternative (or in addition to) other messaging apps such as WhatsApp. You can use Signal as your general SMS and messaging app. If your contact does not have Signal installed, you will be sending un-encrypted SMS to them. If your contact has installed Signal, you will be sending by default encrypted messages. Note that if you are not using data on your mobile you will only be able to receive (and send) unencrypted SMS until you connect to data again.

Regarding differences between different apps out there, it is worth having a look at the EFF score card (currently under re-evaluation). In the EU at least, one of the most used apps is WhatsApp. Although Whatsapp uses (now) the same protocol than Signal to encrypt communications from one device to the other (end-to-end encryption), WhatsApp still does logs and uses the metadata (who you talk to, who are your contacts…) for purposes you might not want Facebook (who owns WhatsApp) to use them.

Signal has been recommended by Edward Snowden, famous whistle-blower that uncovered the NSA massive surveillance system. See this recommendations here:

You can install Signal for Android from Google Play or from other app stores for other operative systems. Once you install it, you might want to install the desktop application for your convenience of use when working on your laptop. Find below some instructions for the installation:

For Linux users: follow these instructions below:

1- Anywhere on your desktop, press CTRL+T to open the terminal

2- Write:

In case you do not have curl installed  yet:


sudo apt install curl

And then copy and paste the following text:

curl -s https://updates.signal.org/desktop/apt/keys.asc | sudo apt-key add -
echo "deb [arch=amd64] https://updates.signal.org/desktop/apt xenial main" | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list.d/signal-xenial.list
sudo apt update && sudo apt install signal-desktop
/opt/Signal/signal-desktop --import

3- Enter your password as required

4- Go to your Signal app, go to Preferences, then go to Linked Devices, de-link all other previous connections you may have, and then press “+” and scan the QR code.

5- Ready to go!

For other operative systems (Windows, Apple):

1.If you never had installed Signal in your Windows/Apple device:

Just go here and dowload the application for your device: https://signal.org/download/

2. If you already had it installed in the first place:

– Go to the current Signal app in Chrome/Chromium:

– Click in the preferences and select something like “move to standalone Signal app”.

– You’ll see links to download the corresponding file for your OS.

– Go to your Signal app, go to Preferences, then go to Linked Devices, de-link all other previous connections you may have, and then press “+” and scan the QR code.

– Ready to go!

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