Many of us assume that everything we write online will be permanently available, and even if intentionally private, potentially discoverable. This level of skepticism is great! But, what if we want to send secure communications and a face-to-face conversation with the recipient is impossible. Or perhaps transfer sensitive electronic files online? For these purposes, and indeed for most personal communications regardless of sensitivity, we should think about encrypted communications platforms. Encryption is the process of encoding the content of messages so they cannot be read by third parties, often even those who manage the servers that route the communication. A list of encrypted communication tools may be found in the right-hand column of this libguide.
When we think about encrypted communication, it is important to consider encryption of both the content of the communication as well as its metadata. This Metadata includes information about the message, excluding the content, for example, the sender, recipient, location data, timestamps, etc. Some "encrypted" communications platforms, for example WhatsApp, encrypt only the content of your messages, not the metadata.
Metadata, or the descriptive data about communication, can be used to infer a great deal about individuals and at scale, about social movements. Below, German politician Malte Spitz discusses the power of metadata as a means of social control.