Away From WhatsApp: What Can Threema Do?

Messenger like WhatsApp determines our communication today like never before. That's not surprising. The mobile news programs are now re...

Messenger like WhatsApp determines our communication today like never before. That's not surprising. The mobile news programs are now real all-rounders. Whether it's a simple text message, voice chat, or an animated meme: there's hardly anything that can't be sent quickly and easily these days. Top dog WhatsApp is probably what most smartphone users have installed on their phones. But the app, which belongs to the Facebook universe, has repeatedly been the subject of discussion in recent years. It is considered to be a little privacy-oriented and Facebook has recently been thinking more and more about placing advertisements in the app. That's why we tested the messenger alternative Threema for you.

Detailed user profiles

The last point, in particular, should give you food for thought. Because as an advertising platform, Facebook is of course primarily interested in finding out as much as possible about you and your communication behavior. Who you chat with and how often already allows a variety of conclusions to be drawn about you and your social environment. Combined with information about the smartphone model you are using, your Facebook friendships, or the times at which you chat, a very precise profile of your person is created. Even seemingly trivial information, such as the way you name your phone book contacts, can play a role (rule of thumb: anyone who dutifully saves their contacts according to the first name, last name scheme is considered more serious and creditworthy than someone whose address book only consists of "Johannes (neu) ", "Honey", "Mama(landline)" and Co.).

At least since the Snowden leaks in the summer of 2013, it has been known how valuable this so-called meta-information about you and your communication partners is for secret services such as the NSA or the British GCHQ. Even then, for example, the British secret service was able to temporarily store almost all data traffic between Europe and the USA for 48 hours and thus make it searchable and analyzable. It can be assumed that the possibilities of the services in this respect have multiplied in the meantime.

What other messengers are there?

So, is it time for you to look for an alternative to WhatsApp?

With apps such as Threema, Signal, Wire, or Telegram, various offers are vying for the attention of users. The Telegram program, which has meanwhile also become very popular in Germany, has proven to be a total failure from a security perspective. Messages are stored on servers around the world for the operator company to view. Even WhatsApp, where at least the content of the messages is transmitted in a comprehensible, securely encrypted manner, is further. Signal and Wire, both of which use the same encryption technology as WhatsApp, stand out to us primarily because of the yawning emptiness in the address books.

Unfortunately, while we still find at least a few friends at Signal, there really is absolutely no one to be found at Wire. In addition, for both providers, the data transport is routed via the USA, as is the case with WhatsApp. In view of the fact that the secret services there have practically unlimited storage capacities, there is a great risk that encrypted content could be stored until the encryption, which is currently considered secure, can be cracked.

The alternative: Threema

In the case of the Swiss messaging app Threema, this is not the case. Here the data is routed via Swiss servers where, according to the current state of knowledge, there is no storage by secret services. Our tests also show that at least significantly more of our contacts have already created Threema accounts than with Signal and Wire. Nevertheless, one must of course state that the market power of WhatsApp means that the contact lists there are much longer.

What about the usability of Threema?

Threema's encryption technology is considered secure. Although the application's program code is not openly visible, independent security audits (most recently in March 2019) have repeatedly confirmed the security of the end-to-end encryption. But can Threema also convince in practical use? Basically, the registration works on both Android and iOS in a similar way to WhatsApp and Co. Enter your phone number, wait for the confirmation SMS and you're done. Alternatively, an e-mail address can be given instead of or in addition to the telephone number, so that contacts who only have this can easily contact them via Threema.

It is also possible to register without having to create another account. The exchange of contacts proves to be a bit complicated, because instead of a username that you can choose yourself, Threema accounts only get a cryptic eight-digit identifier made up of numbers and letters. This makes it possible to use the service completely anonymously because at least on Android, you can purchase and install Threema directly from the manufacturer's website without a Google account. However, most users will hardly consider these somewhat technical options and will instead prefer the “completely normal” registration via telephone number.

In actual use, Threema behaves similarly to WhatsApp and other chat programs. In addition to text messages, photos, videos and files can be sent. Encrypted phone calls are also possible via Threema and worked well to very well in the test, even with a comparatively poor data connection. Group chats are of course also possible. What's cool there is the possibility of posting simple surveys, for example, to arrange appointments or to simplify a decision in the group.

Threema with the desktop version

If you work a lot on the computer anyway, you can use Threema in the web browser in addition to the version for your smartphone. The synchronization is direct and protected with the same strong encryption as the connection between you and your contacts. Similar to the WhatsApp web interface, however, your phone must be switched on in order for you to be able to use this function.

All in all, Threema is in no way inferior to what WhatsApp offers in terms of ease of use and usability. However, the app convinces with a significantly more data-efficient business model that protects privacy. The app currently costs a one-time fee of €3.99 for both iOS and Android. In addition, versions are available for use in companies and educational institutions.

Download Threema from the Apple App Store

Download Threema from the Google Play Store



Guest Post Mag: Away From WhatsApp: What Can Threema Do?
Away From WhatsApp: What Can Threema Do?
Guest Post Mag
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