Lies, Damn Lies and “Secure” Messaging Apps

Last March 6th, Zuckerberg described in a long blog post a new fresh course for our troubled “social digital master” Facebook, to provide its 2 billion users with unprecedented privacy of personal communications.

A “digital equivalent of the living room”, in his own words, to be delivered by merging its Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram messaging apps and strenghtening their more secure. His promise echos similar unfulfilled promises by Steve Jobs in 1984, to save us from an Orwellian future, and Richard Stallman in 1983, when he launch GNU/Linux and the Free and Open Source Movement.

But can even a perfectly secure app deliver a private sphere of communication that enables a meaningful and responsible exercise in cyberspace of our constitutional rights right to privacy, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly?

His promise is completely impossible because an app can never be more secure than the device it runs on and, as we learn repeatedly on a monthly basis even the most secure phone, such as an iPhone, is regularly hacked and hackable even by researchers or teenage hackers -it may

Nearly all commentators, except for rare comments by digital rights organizations, have fail to recognise Zuckerberg plan is impossible. The New York Times for example thinks his business model is missing, while the EFF, the World leading digital rights organization, thinks it could all work with a third party audit entity.

Though impossible, Zuckerberg promise may well be able to sell this plan to a majority of people becuase of the astounding amount of deceptions and misconceptions surrounding the issue, lead by security agencies consistently misrepresentation about the security offered by apps to induce mid-level criminals to abuse them to be able to interecept them as required by investigations.

But truth is that even if their apps were perfectly secure - which is likely impossible - they would be extremely far from delivering on their promise. In fact, the security an app can not be is limited to the security of the device it runs on. And that security is “utterly weak” as Snowden noted. Even the most secure portable device out there, the iPhone, is regularly hacked by even mid-level hackers. (And also compromisable at scale at low marginal cost via public and private programs AI-powered descendants of NSA FoxAcid, NSA Turbine and Hacking Team RCS)

By why is there such amount of misconceptions?

At root there is a wide natural uncoordinated alignment of interests of several actors that produces a wild overstatement of the privacy provided by secure apps and secure devices, even on the face of a continuous barrage of revelations of government programs and systems vulnerabilities. These actors includes security agencies, happy to induce less expert criminals to use broken techs, secure messaging IT providers, happy to overstate the security of their wares, and cybersecurity journalists, often parroting the above, and looking for news even where there is none.

So is the creation of a digital private sphere impossible?

At first, Facebook replaced public streets, squares and shopping malls, and the smaller fragmented online spaces of the first year of the Internet, with a single de-facto digital public sphere, a gigantic digital shopping mall with 24hrs surveillance cameras at every corner. More recently, it bought its way into domination of personal and social messaging by buying off Whatsapp and Instagram, and implementing strong encryption technologies.

Facebook now claims to be setting out to create the “digital equivalent of the living room”, a digital transposition of what was the constitutionally guaranteed private sphere. They claim it will not only be secure, but secure even against hackers and governments, while also mitigating criminal abuse, and simply by integrating, enriching and further securing its Whatsapp, Instagram and Messenger messaging apps.

But that is impossible, as we discussed about. If after we learned that even Bezos and Trump can’t access a way to privately communicate with their personal associates, Facebook can still credibly claim to become the new privacy champion just by making their messaging apps more secure, it means that the level of deception on digital privacy is way beyond guard-level.

At TRUSTLESS.AI and our Trustless Computing Association, we are building nothing less than that very “digital equivalent of the living room” or a “digital private sphere” that Zuckerberg promised but will never be able deliver, even if he wanted to.

In order to build the “digital equivalent of the living room” you need a new device that will seamlessly integrate with the “digital public sphere”, but is nevertheless separated by a physical wall, just like in the physical World we expect our living room to be separated by a wall from public urban spaces.

It will come in the form of a Seevik Pod a standalone 2mm-thin touch-screen device, that will become the default backscreen of tens of millions of Android phones, complementing our digital public sphere with a vibrant and secure private sphere.