Elon Musk has big plans for Twitter. He might consider adding end-to-end encryption to direct messages if the deal goes through. While this would add another layer of privacy, it would also open opportunities for the criminal misuse of the platform.
"Twitter DMs should have end to end encryption like Signal, so no one can spy on or hack your messages," Musk tweeted.
For many messaging apps, such as Signal or Whatsapp, end-to-end encryption has been a strong selling point. End-to-end encryption means that the message is scrambled from when it leaves your phone to when it gets to the recipient. No one along the way can access it.
Telegram, Signal, Whatsapp, and other encrypted messaging services have been instrumental in dismantling authoritarian regimes and organizing uprisings from Hong Kong to Russia.
They have been gaining popularity in countries where governments tend to keep communications on a leash and surveil their population, for example, China, Russia, and Belarus.
Governments have been advocating against encryption for a long time, arguing that investigators are left with no evidence if all of the messages are encrypted. And that concern is not without basis.
Many researchers point out that encrypted chat apps have become a market for counterfeit goods and hacking tools.
"Because content moderation is, by design, nearly impossible on these apps, they allow for an easy vector for dealers of illicit goods to communicate directly to customers without fear of law enforcement involvement," NortonLifeLock said.
While adding end-to-end encryption to Twitter DMs would benefit user privacy, there are some things to consider.
Graham Cluley, Bitdefender's contributor, noted that Musk isn't correct that "no one can spy on or hack your messages" if Twitter DMs were to become end-to-end encrypted.
"After all, if anyone had access to (or hacked) either the sending or receiving accounts, they would be able to read the messages as simply as the genuine correspondents," he wrote.
As Cluley highlighted, not only autocratic regimes but also Western democracies resist end-to-end encryption.
"The UK Home Office, for instance, is spending millions in a campaign that asks tech companies to not roll out end-to-end encryption until "they have the technology to ensure children will not be put at greater risk as a result," he said.
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