Apple’s Messages App Doesn’t Protect Privacy

image credit: Apple

By Chand Bellur

September 7, 2020 at 7:19 p.m

  • Sending iMessages with images stored in the Photos app embeds metadata such as location and date.
  • Using the camera directly within Messages will not send metadata to the recipient.
  • Messaging apps like WhatsApp provide superior privacy and security than iMessage, stripping out image metadata while providing end-to-end encryption.

Apple’s Messages App Lacks Security

As it stands today, sending an image from the Messages app can have unintended consequences. Apple’s multi-platform Messages app doesn’t strip EXIF metadata from photos. This means your message recipient will be able to see where and when you captured the image.

Most casual Apple customers are unaware of the security flaw. The Cupertino tech giant’s distortion reality field claims they’re the most secure option. Reality itself offers more secure texting applications, such as WhatsApp and even Facebook Messenger.

Apple’s Messages is Ridiculously Popular

As it stands, Apple’s Messages app is one of the most-used forms of peer-to-peer communication on the planet. According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, users send over 40 billion iMessages every day. Although most people worldwide have access to SMS messaging, only 18 billion or so SMS messages circulate every day.

Apple’s apparent domination of messaging isn’t as compelling upon further examination. Although Messages dominates any other texting platform, the sum of competitors’ messaging far exceeds that of Apple users.

In other words, there are more people and messages sent outside of the Apple ecosystem than within. This is similar to how the iPhone is the most popular phone, yet most people have Android smartphones.

The high number of iMessages also reflects Apple’s customer base. Millennials and Generation Z employ text messaging heavily. They overwhelmingly favor Apple devices. Although there are more SMS text messaging users globally, iMessage users tend to be more active as part of their culture.

Privacy Workarounds for Apple’s Messages App

With the Messages App, Apple’s pledge to protect end-users’ privacy falls short. Unbeknownst to most Apple customers, photos shared via the Messages app can contain EXIF metadata, exposing location and time.

There are workarounds to protect privacy. Users can take photographs directly within the Messages app. Stripped of EXIF metadata, impromptu photos won’t reveal information about image capture location and time. 

People often want to send photos from the Photos app, instead of taking a photo directly from the Messages app. It’s still possible to protect privacy; however, it’s a real chore:

  • Launch the Photos app and tap on the share button.
  • Select options from the top of the Share Sheet.
  • Turn off the Location switch and tap Done
  • Tap on the Messages icon to compose your iMessage

Although it’s not the most challenging process, it’s hardly automated or convenient. The settings are neither central nor persistent. You must do this every time you send images from the Photos app. Apps such as WhatsApp are better alternatives, as they strip all EXIF metadata from photos, ensuring user privacy.

Will iOS 14 Fix Apple Messages Security?

Apple fans might assume that the Cupertino tech giant will fix this issue in iOS 14. Beta versions of Apple’s upcoming mobile operating system reveal that the problem still exists. 

Apple may view this as a feature, assuming that texters wish to share location data with iMessages. Apple claims their messaging system is secure, however, with end-to-end encryption. Unfortunately, most users are unaware that messages transmitted from the Photos app via Messages send location information.

Privacy is a concern for many, and iMessages are less secure than other platforms, such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. If privacy is important to you, these messaging platforms may be better options. Unfortunately, unlike Messages, these texting apps don’t piggyback on SMS. This means you’ll have to get all of your friends, relatives, and coworkers to use the same app. 

Although both WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are extremely popular, most people go for the default. For many, this is Apple’s Messaging app, which isn’t as secure as the company contends.

 

 

 

 

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