Amazon bought the Wickr Me secure messaging app. At the risk of scaring current app users?
On June 25, Amazon added to its massive empire a service it has surprisingly lacked so far: a messaging app. The multinational bought Wickr Me, an almost 10-year-old company that has built its reputation on the security offered to users. Less known than WhatsApp or Signal, the app offers more advanced security options.
- Like the two popular apps, its communications are end-to-end encrypted, but with a different protocol, developed in-house. This security standard protects the content of messages in the event that they are intercepted by a criminal or by the police. Likewise, it prevents the company from reading its customers’ discussions.
- Like its competitors, Wickr Me removes metadata from any shared image. This information linked to the image file can, for example, offer indications on the place or date of a photo.
- Ephemeral messages are at the center of the operation of the application, with the possibility of making them disappear automatically after a chosen and modifiable time period.
- She does not ask to link her phone number to the app. Result: it is possible to give the interlocutor a simple pseudonym. This is an additional guarantee of identity protection: telephone numbers are most often linked to a SIM card, itself attached to an operator, and to the person’s real name. More generally, it is possible to use Wickr without communicating any personal data to the application.
- By default, the app displays a preview of the destination site of a received link, a relatively effective protection against phishing.
The amount of the acquisition is not known, and as of yet, Amazon has not commented on its plans for the app’s future. In his press release, Stephen Schmidtt, vice president of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and chief information security officer emphasizes one point: “ [Wickr] is a welcome addition to our dedicated collaboration and productivity offering that AWS provides to its customers and partners “.
More than the general public application, it is therefore the “Pro” version of Wickr Me that seems to interest Amazon. In this paid version, the application looks more like a competitor of Slack or Microsoft Team, with discussion channels, video conferencing options or even file sharing. Among its clients, it counts military units, government agencies and companies that have to process information at a high level of sensitivity.
Wickr Will I change to Amazon?
Wickr Me users have plenty of questions about the future of their application. For good reason: Amazon’s economic model seems diametrically opposed to the values of the app. Jeff Bezos’ company was built on his knowledge of consumers and their behavior thanks to data from its various departments. Conversely, everything is done on Wickr to collect the least amount of information, and Amazon has not announced any changes.
The parallel of this situation with that of WhatsApp, acquired by Facebook in 2014, seems obvious. Facebook continued the impressive growth in the number of users of the app, but lost its first users along the way. From an app used by people sensitive to security issues (journalists, activists, criminals, etc.), it has become a classic in smartphones for the general public. The first cities have migrated to Signal (like the European institutions) or other “independent” apps.
It is difficult not to imagine a significant segment of current users of the free version of Wickr doing the same, and leaving it because of the identity of the purchaser. Even if the app has proven itself, the most ardent defenders of privacy will not (or no longer in this case) use a Gafa-stamped service. The recent exodus of WhatsApp users to Signal and Telegram through a simple change in terms of service was further proof, if any, of the growing mistrust of tech giants.