Episode
September 26, 2018

What are the dangers of self-deleting messaging apps?

An Al Jazeera investigation finds improper use of apps by a US police department.
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Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit has found that a self-deleting messaging app called Tiger Text was adopted by at least one police department in the United States. And the police in question - in Long Beach, California - may have used it to share sensitive and potentially incriminating information that they would not want disclosed in court. The Los Angeles county District Attorney has begun a probe and the police force has suspended its use of Tiger Text - but the investigation has raised serious questions about the use of so-called self-destructing texting apps.

Apps like Signal, Kaboom, Telegram and Tiger Text are self-deleting messaging services in which messages, once read, disappear from the device, and are not stored anywhere. End-to-end encryption transforms messages into unintelligible data when the user sends a message. The message isn't reconstituted into something understandable until it reaches the receiver's device. Such apps have become popular with political activists and in the medical profession, and are becoming increasingly popular as fears of surveillance grow. 

Some question whether elected officials should be using self-deleting services at all. In the US state of Missouri, two lawyers are suing a former governor for his use of one such app, Confide. Former governor Eric Greitens resigned in June facing impeachment threats following an extra-marital affair and a campaign finance inquiry. There are concerns that Greitens and his staffers used the app for government and non-government communication, a violation of Missouri's open record laws. In the US, legislation varies state by state, but there are concerns about the apps being used at a federal level also.

In a report published earlier this year UN Human Rights Council special rapporteur David Kaye found that there had been a surge in state restrictions on encryption in the past three years and states have intensified their efforts to weaken encryption. App developers are facing increasing pressure to install “backdoors” in software to give law enforcement officials access to encrypted messages or secured devices. Several states have banned encryption services and others have jailed people for using them.

So who should be using these self-deleting text messaging apps, and why? We’ll discuss on this episode of The Stream. Join the conversation.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak to:

Simon Boazman @Simonboazman 
Investigative Reporter, Al Jazeera

Eva Galperin @evacide 
Director of Cybersecurity, Electronic Frontier Foundation
eff.org

Mohammad Tajsar @mtajsar 
National security staff attorney, ACLU of Southern California

Read more:
Exclusive: US police 'using Tiger Text app to conceal evidence' - Al Jazeera 
A private app for public officials - WNYC 

What do you think? Record a video comment or leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

 

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