Text messages are an integral part of our daily communication in the digital age. Whether it’s coordinating plans with friends, communicating with co-workers, or keeping in touch with family members, texting allows us to share information and messages on the go conveniently. However, standard SMS text messages have some privacy and security flaws. They are not encrypted end-to-end by default, allowing cell phone carriers and potentially hackers or government agencies access to read your messages. There are also risks of messages being intercepted, leaked, or shared without your consent. Having private conversations over text can feel risky.
One option is to avoid standard unencrypted SMS messages entirely and use a secure encrypted messaging app instead. Apps like Signal, WhatsApp, and Telegram allow for end-to-end encryption of your messages in transit and on stored chat history. This prevents third parties from accessing your messages. Just make sure all parties in a conversation are using the same encrypted app.
Enable disappearing messages
Many encrypted apps like Signal and Telegram have options to enable “disappearing messages” – this will cause any messages sent in a chat to automatically delete after a set period, anywhere from 24 hours to one week. It prevents long-term message history from building up and ensures messages self-destruct after their useful life useful for particularly sensitive conversations.
Private messaging service
There are services like PrivNote that allow you to write text message notes that self-destruct after being read by the recipient. You generate a unique link to access the note, which can be opened on any device by whoever you share the link with. Once opened, the note is displayed for a short time and then permanently deleted from PrivNote’s servers.
Turn off chat history
how to private message? For standard texting through your phone’s default messaging app, check if there is an option to disable keeping a local history of messages. It prevents the long-term accumulation of messages on your device that could be insecure. You may lose some convenience but gain more privacy.
Use code words
When texting sensitive content, use vague language and code words in place of specifics. For example, if coordinating an event, use a code name for the event and avoid specifics over text. Keep the circle of people who know the meaning of code words small. This limits damage if messages are compromised.
Avoid sensitive photos
Never share compromising or sensitive photos via standard, unencrypted SMS or MMS text messages. Once sent, you lose control. Encrypted apps provide more security for sharing photos privately. Use photo-sharing apps that utilize end-to-end encryption for sharing sensitive photos as well.
Keep texts minimal
Exchanging less sensitive information over unencrypted SMS can also help. Keep necessary conversations short, vague, and discrete. Save the sensitive, private conversations for encrypted apps with disappearing messages enabled.
Use deletion apps
There are mobile apps like DeleteMe and Killi that can automatically delete or make inaccessible old text messages and phone call logs after a set period. It can help manage your mobile device’s privacy and security.
Disable preview texts
Most phones display a preview of newly received SMS message texts on the lock screen. Disable this text message preview feature in your phone’s settings or messaging app. This prevents others around you from inadvertently reading your messages.