Care About Your Privacy When Chatting On Your Mobile Device? IM+ Might Have The Answer


With all the brouhaha over PRISM and internet security lately, it might be time to seek out some instant messaging apps that can handle “off the record” messaging. Google’s chat does this transparently when using the web-based client via Gmail, and Mac and PC apps like Adium can handle the encryption as well.

Interestingly, Google’s own Hangouts app, at least on my iPhone, isn’t able to. You just get the raw encryption, which just looks like random text, which is what it’s supposed to be.

We got an email today, though, from Shape Services, the developers of IM+ and IM+ Pro, saying that there’s a in-app purchase that adds this encrypted chat to their apps, both on Google Play and iTunes.

Better yet? Starting tomorrow, the in-app purchase, regularly $4.99, will be free.

OTR (Off the record) messaging uses end to end encryption, encrypting it on the sender’s side and then decrypting it on the receiver’s side. This means that there is no way to read the message once it’s sent, except by the intended recipient. No matter how many stops along the way, the data is unreadable by all except the person you sent it to.

The encryption keys are generated on a per-conversation basis, and discarded after use. That means even you and the person you’re chatting with can’t read these messages later. That’s why OTR chat sessions aren’t archived in Gmail.

Regular instant messaging isn’t secure like that. Once you send it, it’s “in the clear,” and anyone with access to your internet provider’s data, like we worry about with PRISM, can read it. Even SSL encryption isn’t end to end, so there’s a chance it can be read between sender and recipient.

To grab the in-app purchase for IM+ or IM+ Pro, either on your Android or iPhone, simply tap on the Gear icon in the upper right corner, and then tap Off-the-Record Messaging. If you miss the free period, your account will be charged $4.99 for the privilege, but isn’t this kind of privacy worth five bucks?