Last July, a Tor-based messaging service called Briar was first announced. It was only in beta at the time, but the app showed a lot of potential.
And now, after nearly a year of development, Briar is finally available for a full public release.
Briar is an encrypted peer-to-peer messaging service that uses the Tor network to send and receive messages.
It’s available for download here, on the Google Play Store. It’s still not currently available on iOS or desktop devices, but the developers are looking into expanding their app to these other platforms.
When Briar first went into beta last year, it was seen as a huge win for people who need a way to communicate securely, as they now have a relatively mainstream way of doing so. Now that the app is available for a full release, it’s an even bigger win.
On the project website, Briar describes itself as an app designed for anyone (including activists and journalists) who needs a safe, easy and effective way to communicate.
The release of this app brings comfort to many people who worry about government surveillance over what they say online. Now there’s a secure alternative to other messaging services.
Advantages over Other Services
The market for messaging services has grown by quite a lot in recent years. As privacy becomes a larger issue, the demand for secure messaging apps becomes larger as well. Briar is here just in time to meet those demands.
However, there are other well-established secure messaging services besides Briar—one of those being Bitmessage, which is essentially the same thing as Briar.
Bitmessage is also a decentralized P2P communication service where the government can’t pry its fingers into your messages. Unlike Briar, Bitmessage is available for download on Windows, OS X, and Linux.
Also unlike Briar, Bitmessage is not exactly user-friendly. Briar looks more like a standard messaging service available today, but Bitmessage is reminiscent of the first clunky email services made when the internet was barely a thing.
It has also had some notable security mishaps, with the most recent one emerging just a few months ago.
Alternatively, Briar is the first attempt to make this sort of secure service user-friendly, convenient, mainstream and, ultimately, effective.
There are countless other existing messaging services, such as WhatsApp, Discord, Skype, Facebook and Telegram, the list goes on.
These apps have made casual promises to protect user data, but some have still been the focus of major controversy surrounding data privacy in the recent past. Briar prides itself on the fact that it protects its users’ data, first and foremost.
Messaging services have been in pretty hot demand for a while, especially from dark web users. However, recent events have shown that these services may not be entirely safe for these users. Secure messenger apps appeal to the people that these insecure apps may not appeal to.
Other apps, the most notable one being Facebook, have done the exact opposite of what Briar is trying to accomplish. These recent events have shown exactly what the consequence of using unsafe messaging services can be.
Facebook Scandal Ignites Higher Demand for Secure Services
The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal affected over 87 million users of Facebook. Their private information was used, sold and otherwise exploited, with very little communication to the users that it affected.
Facebook has loosely promised to keep the data of its users safe, but now it’s pretty obvious that was never their goal anyway.
The point here is that Facebook and Briar are on opposite sides of the privacy spectrum.
In light of the whole Facebook scandal, Briar is just exactly what users need. It’s a reminder that we don’t need to give up a part of ourselves just to text people. We don’t have to have companies prying into our personal lives if we don’t want them to.
When these scandals happen, it’s easy to feel like there’s nowhere to go where you can be safe from being watched by someone.
Whether it’s by companies or the government, a majority of the information out there is being monitored somehow. It may seem impossible, but it’s really easy to not be a part of that majority.
In the age of surveillance, we must find and use any tools we can to stay protected. And now, with the release of Briar, these tools are easier to access than ever before. It’s our job as users of the internet to show companies that our private information isn’t for them to sell. Our private information isn’t for anyone but ourselves.
So—let’s keep our private information private. Do yourself a favor and be safe.
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