Whatsapp alternatives placing user privacy at higher risk - Turkish experts

Turkish experts warned that migrating from Whatsapp to Telegram put users’ privacy at higher risk than before, Duvar English reported on Monday. 

In an online discussion panel hosted by the Turkish Computer Engineers Chamber, experts cautioned that neither Telegram nor Turkey’s domestic alternative BiP were any more secure than Whatsapp, and, in some ways, even less safe. 

"Switching from WhatsApp to Telegram is a step towards insecurity where your messages can be screened in real time," Diyar Saraçoğlu of the Alternative Media Association said at the event. 

Saraçoğlu based his warning on the fact Telegram, a Russian messenger app, does not have end to end encryption that allows only a message’s sender and recipient to view its contents as a default setting.  He also cautioned that BiP is not more trustworthy simply because it is Turkish-origin as the source-code uses material from abroad.

"It's best to check whether an application is an open source, rather than looking at where it was created," said Saraçoğlu 

After Whatsapp announced new changes to its user privacy policies to allow more sharing with its parent company Facebook, Turkish users were encouraged to migrate to alternative apps. 

The government announced that it would end the use of Whatsapp groups for briefing journalists and move exclusively to BiP. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself is now present on Telegram, something that its founder Pavel Durov used to highlight migration to his app. 

"We might be witnessing the largest digital migration in history. President Erdoğan and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also opened their channels," Durov said last week.

BiP is operated by TurkCell, Turkey’s leading mobile phone operator with its largest shareholder being the Turkish Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).