Saturday, October 11, 2014

CyberCitizens logout of in country hosted messaging apps services

Instant messaging apps hosted out of a cybercitizens country of residence have become a favorite after fears that the home government could look into chat logs for evidence that may ultimately be used to prosecute the sender or receiver of the chat messages.  When the NSA PRISM spying episode unraveled, the loudest protests were from Americans.  A similar story appears to be playing out in South Korea where over 1.5 m users have abandoned their Korean messaging app service  Kakao Talk used by 70% of the population for the Telegram Messenger - an encrypted messaging service based in Germany, with no servers in South Korea. The secret chat technology ensures that the messages are not stored on the company’s server, self-destruct and are encrypted and therefore they cannot be handed over to law enforcement.
The underlying reason for the exodus has been the crackdown by law enforcement on people allegedly spreading rumors about the president of South Korea on Kakao Talk. Rumors were spreading due to the public discontent on the way the South Korean Sewol ferry disaster, where 304 people died was handled.

Cybercitizens seem to have more trust in foreign governments who have no apparent incentive to trawl their data. Receiving data from foreign sites even for genuine cases of cybercrime or harassment is an issue for law enforcement as they need to get appropriate court orders. Requests also have to be made before logs are deleted, these are usually retained for a limited time, usually a month.
Encryption is a two way sword it protects the privacy of the good and the bad. Terrorist, cybercriminals and other such elements can always use these apps. For this reason there will be pressure from law enforcement on any provider of encrypted communication to ensure that there is a way to decrypt the message. Encrypting a message which cannot be decrypted only protects the content of the message, other details such sender, receiver, attachment size, date and time, ip addresses (and hence location) of both sender and receiver would be still available.

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