Posted on February 12, 2019
Should you be using a secure messaging app? Isn’t plain-old texting safe enough? Do you really need the privacy promised by an app like Signal or WhatsApp?
On the one hand, there is a low risk that your SMS text messages will be hacked. Americans send 26 billion texts every day, which is some serious safety in numbers. On the other hand, you’ll find dozens of text-spying apps via a quick Google search, so someone who’s determined to read your texts does have the tools available.
On the third hand, why not use a secure messaging app? They’re free, easy, and provide very strong security for communications of all sorts, from texting to photo sharing to voice and video calling.
A good, secure messaging app provides end-to-end encryption for messages you send and receive. The technology is complex – an algorithm encrypts messages you send so they can’t be read while in transit then decrypts them at the receiver’s end – but using a secure messaging app is simple. Just download and install it on your phone and you can communicate securely with anyone else who has the same app. The messages aren’t stored on company servers and can’t be read by spies or mined by advertisers.
Before we get into our list of five good, easy-to-use secure messaging apps, let’s talk about Facebook Messenger.
There’s a good chance you use Facebook Messenger. Over a billion people do every day. But be aware that Messenger does not provide end-to-end encryption by default (neither do Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram or Skype). To enable end-to-end encryption, you have to turn on Secret Conversations in the settings. In Secret Conversations, you can send messages, photos, videos and voice files. Secret Conversations does not support group messages, payments, or voice and video calls.
Like WhatsApp (which is owned by Facebook), Messenger is very convenient because so many other people use it. But if you do use it, do so with the knowledge that Facebook collects loads of data on you via Messenger, same as it does at your Facebook account. You might dislike this practice or you might not care – some like seeing Facebook’s “relevant” ads. But it’s important to be aware of this so you can make informed decisions.
Here are five good, widely used secure messaging apps that provide end-to-end encryption to protect your messages from hackers, service providers and the government.
Even these apps’ makers can’t access your messages. In addition to secure messaging, all these apps offer voice and video calling, file sharing, and (other than Apple iMessage) a self-destruct setting that allows you to make your messages disappear after a set time.
iMessage is Apple’s built-in messaging service and thus available only to users of Apple devices. But, since that’s a lot of people, it’s worth including here. iMessage provides end-to-end encryption for all messages and attachments sent and received via the app. But keep in mind that messages exchanged with Android users do not get end-to-end encryption. They’re treated as simple text messages.
WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in the world, used by over 1.5 billion people every day. It’s free and available to Android and iOS users. It provides end-to-end encryption by default – you don’t have to turn it on, it’s always there. You can back-up your messages to Google Drive if you choose, so you can restore them on a new Android device.
WhatsApp is, however, owned by Facebook, which aggressively mines your data to serve you ads. And in late 2018, Facebook announced that, sometime in 2019, WhatsApp will begin showing ads alongside its popular Status feature. This breaks a promise Facebook made back in 2016, when it bought WhatsApp, to adhere to WhatsApp’s founding principles to keep it ad-free. Just Facebook being Facebook.
Signal is different from most other secure messaging apps. Its end-to-end encryption engine is open source, which means the code is continuously reviewed for bugs and loopholes. It’s sort of the Linux of the secure-messaging world. Signal is supported by grants and donations, which means the app has no ads, no affiliate marketing, and no tracking. Its security platform is used by WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
Signal is free and its interface is refreshingly simple. Signal is the favorite messaging app of Edward Snowden, who knows a thing or two about security. And last year, when WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton quit Facebook in protest against Facebook’s plan to put ads on WhatsApp, he joined Signal.
Viber, which is used by close to 1 billion people, provides end-to-end encryption by default. It’s free and available to Android and iOS users. Viber does come with ads and in-app purchases. It also leans toward the young user, offering a large library of stickers (some free, some not) directly on the interface. Which is cool if you’re a sticker fan but distracting if you’re not.
In addition to its Secret Chats feature (which makes messages disappear after a set time), Viber also lets you manually delete messages you’ve sent – from your own phone and also from the phones of the people you’ve sent it to. The company is owned by Japanese e-commerce and internet giant Rakuten and based in Luxembourg.
Telegram is a cloud-based app, which brings advantages and disadvantages. On the upside, it delivers messages very quickly (faster than any other secure-messaging app, it claims) and allows you to share an unlimited number of photos, videos and files, including .doc, .zip and .mp3 – up to 1.5 GB each.
On the downside, cloud storage means Telegram does not offer end-to-end encryption by default. To get it, you have to turn on Secret Chats in the app’s settings. All Secret Chats are device-specific and never enter the Telegram cloud. Messages in Secret Chats cannot be forwarded, and when you delete messages on your end of the conversation, they will also be deleted at the receiver’s end.
Telegram’s code is open source. It’s free, serves no ads and does not push in-app purchases. Telegram is owned by its founder, Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, who in 2014 imposed exile on himself when allies of Vladimir Putin took over VKontakte, his social networking site, which is also Russia’s largest. He’s now a resident of Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Your mobile provider
A lot of people join CREDO Mobile because they care about their privacy – and they know CREDO is the only mobile phone company to receive a 5-star rating in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s most recent “Who Has Your Back?” on privacy. If you’re not already a member of CREDO Mobile – and you care about your privacy, consider switching today. It’s easy to do.
Posted on February 5, 2019
There is a lot of talk in the mobile world about 5G. You may have heard it. And if you haven’t yet, you soon will, because the telecom giants are preparing their 5G rollout – and with it will come their usual blizzard of hype. At this point, you’ll naturally be asking yourself “What is 5G?” and “Do I need to go out and buy a 5G phone?”
Good questions. We have answers.
What is 5G?
5G is the fifth generation of wireless technology and successor to 4G LTE. It promises a higher speed and capacity with less latency. When it arrives, you’ll be able to browse the internet way faster, upload and download videos much quicker, and use data-intensive apps like video calling with virtually no lag.
To do all this, you’ll need to get yourself a new 5G phone. So should you? Right now, no.
Why you don’t need a 5G phone – yet
Yes, they’re coming. Samsung, Huawei, and others have announced they will launch 5G handsets in 2019. But buying a 5G phone now is like buying a shiny new saddle without a horse – because true 5G is still years away.
This, of course, has slowed the marketing blitz not at all. Among the telecoms, AT&T fired the first shot in early January when it began promoting its mobile network as “5GE” on some of its smartphones. It replaced that little LTE icon you see in the top right corner of your screen with a 5GE icon, which AT&T said stands for “5G Evolution.”
Not so fast said Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, all of which jumped to point out that 5GE is not true 5G. What it is, really, is AT&T marketing-speak for a tech upgrade to its existing LTE cell towers. AT&T describes it this way: “These technologies serve as the runway to 5G by boosting the existing LTE network and priming it for the future of connectivity.”
5GE does provide an increase in speed for AT&T customers in the markets where it’s available. But the upgrade isn’t anything that other carriers aren’t doing themselves. 5GE is just a label that AT&T has stuck on its new, slightly improved LTE network.
So for now, AT&T is pretty much the same old AT&T: a middle-of-the-road carrier that does a lot of stuff you probably don’t agree with if you’re a progressive person, like helping the NSA spy on Americans’ internet activity and donating money to elect racist, white supremacist Steve King to Congress.
So when will true 5G arrive?
It will be at least several years. To function properly, a 5G network will need vastly more antennas and towers and a lot of other new technology, which means mobile carriers will have to invest in an entirely new infrastructure before they can offer their customers true 5G.
In other words, hold off on that expensive new 5G phone. Computerworld says that even though most or all high-end smartphones will likely support 5G by 2022, 5G’s technology challenges are so great that “five years from now your smartphone will be using 4G almost all the time, even when you’ve got a 5G phone in a 5G city.”
Posted on February 4, 2019
Public school teachers and students deserve better. That’s why, across the country, teachers are standing up to demand better pay, more classroom funding, increased support staff and smaller class sizes in response to nationwide underfunding of public schools.
In Arizona, Colorado to Kentucky, Washington, Oklahoma, West Virginia and California, teachers are walking out or striking to stand up for the future of their students – and they are winning.
As Robert Bruno, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois, told the Associated Press, “What you’re seeing…is real enthusiasm and a belief that you can actually be successful…there’s now a sense that you can actually win.”
We agree! Teachers – many of whom are women and people of color – are fighting for the future of their students and standing up to the policies of austerity that have woefully and chronically underfunded public schools. These teachers are putting their jobs and lives on the line to improve the conditions for their students and their fellow teachers and staff, and they work day in and day out to ensure that every child has an opportunity to succeed.
If you’re participating in a rally or would like to support teachers, we have some posters you can download and print at home:
Editor’s note: this piece was originally published on Medium.
The U.S. Climate Report released in November and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in October confirmed what we already know based on the extreme fires, droughts and hurricanes that have wreaked devastation on our country this past year: The climate crisis is here. We need a Green New Deal to prevent climate catastrophe and fight rising social, racial, economic and gender inequities.
At its root, the climate crisis is the result of an economic system based on ever-increasing consumption that pushes the earth beyond its ecological limits. This system has also turned what should be a human right – from energy to food to clean air and water – into commodities. We need to remake financial and economic systems so that they serve people and the planet, not the other way around. We must also account for the United States’ tremendous ecological debt to the Global South and its responsibility as the largest historical climate polluter to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide finance for people in developing countries commensurate with what science and justice demand.
There is no room for the half-solutions of the past. We cannot allow the vast political power of the fossil fuel or industrial agriculture lobbies to advance policies that continue our reliance on dirty energy and unsustainable food systems. The real answer to the climate change crises lies in changing the way we manage, extract, use and distribute Earth’s natural resources. We need a new model of environmental, social, racial, economic and gender justice that upends traditional power structures in order to build a future where everyone has access to wealth, equitable decision-making and safety. Below are Friends of the Earth U.S.’s platform principles to guide a Green New Deal. Linked here are principles from our international network across 70 countries.
1) Cut greenhouse gas emissions
- Rapidly phase out all fossil fuel extraction and burning, starting with the projects and infrastructure that have the greatest impact on frontline communities and sensitive ecosystems.
- End subsidies for fossil fuel projects in the United States and overseas, as well as investments in expensive, unproven technologies that extend fossil fuel and nuclear power use. These include carbon capture and storage and small modular nuclear reactors.
- Put an end to energy waste through energy efficiency and energy saving, along with ending overconsumption by corporations and economic and political elites.
- We must fully decarbonize our transportation system. We must invest in public transit systems that serve those who need it most and are fully powered by renewable energy. We must phase out vehicles with combustion engines and clean up shipping. And instead of constructing new roads, highways and airport projects, we must reconnect our cities and suburbs to reduce vehicle and air traffic.
- Cut support for climate-polluting industrial animal agriculture (concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs) by shifting federal subsidies away from CAFOs and chemical- and energy-intensive animal feed monocultures and instead support diversified, organic and regenerative agricultural practices that rely on low/natural carbon inputs and that store carbon in healthy soil.
- Shift public food purchasing and feeding programs (e.g., school lunch) away from carbon-intensive animal foods toward healthier, climate-friendly plant-based alternatives.
- Sequester biological carbon in addition to – and not in lieu of – reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. This must exclude forest carbon offsets and other carbon sequestration proposals such as chemical-intensive no-till farming or ocean fertilization that pose their own environmental risks.
- Reject the development, testing and use of controversial and unproven climate geoengineering techniques, including solar radiation management, greenhouse gas removal and sequestration and weather modification, which could have devastating impacts on the environment, ecosystems and communities across the world.
- Implement federal and state mandates to drive and assure policy compliance with greenhouse gas reduction targets, and to ramp up investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable diets and ecological agriculture in line with the consensus of climate scientists.
2) Transition to 100 percent renewable, resilient and just energy and food systems
- Shift to 100 percent renewable energy. This includes major investments in solar, wind, geothermal and other technologies; updating our electrical grid; public and community ownership overpower infrastructure; and the option for distributed energy sources in our homes and communities.
- Enact binding laws to ensure the fundamental right to renewable energy for all, based on democratic and community control.
- Switch subsidies and incentives away from climate-wrecking activities and massively ramp up public investment in ecological agriculture and renewable energy, both at home and overseas.
- Reject so-called energy solutions that further racial, economic and social inequities, such as large-scale hydroelectric dams, which can harm ecosystems and undermine livelihoods; biofuels and biomass, which can be carbon intensive, disrupt food systems and destroy forests; or waste-to-energy projects (e.g., trash incineration or biogas from factory farms), which can impact health.
- Reject carbon trading schemes, which can concentrate the dirtiest projects in marginalized communities, worsening environmental injustice and racism.
- Ensure energy sufficiency. This means sufficient universal energy access – at a level that respects everyone’s right to a dignified life.
- Promote food sovereignty and climate resiliency by guaranteeing the right to land, water, and seeds, and ensuring local and Indigenous Peoples’ control over their territories and food systems.
- Recognize and empower the fundamental role of women in food production across the world.
3) Just transition with good jobs and worker rights
- A true just transition must provide a framework for transforming our economy to one based on energy democracy, food sovereignty, worker and community control, and protection of the right to water, food, land, and energy for all.
- Shift to local solutions that make good on the promise of public ownership and cooperative control.
- Public policies should enable community management of forests and natural systems that are the best way to protect biodiversity and promote ecosystem restoration.
- Instead of an economy based on extraction and consumption where frontline communities are turned into sacrifice zones, we must foster ecological resilience to restore biodiversity and other natural systems.
- Promote organic and ecological small- and mid-scale food production systems that support thriving local economies and higher numbers of dignified jobs than energy-intensive large-scale commodity agriculture.
- Ensure the right for people to have dignified work and safe workplaces, as well as a guaranteed family-sustaining wage, hours and benefits. Protect the rights of workers to organize, engage in collective bargaining and undertake workplace actions.
- The Green New Deal process must be transparent and include frontline peoples, affected communities and workers at every stage from planning through implementation.
Nicole Ghio is the Senior Fossil Fuels Program Manager at Friends of the Earth, an organization that defends the environment and champions a healthy and just world in which all people live with dignity, health and equity. FOE is a long-time activism ally and grantee of CREDO: since 1991, CREDO members have voted to donate nearly $1 million to FOE.
Each month, CREDO members vote on how we distribute funding to three incredible organizations. Those small actions add up – with one click, they help fund groups supporting civil rights, peace and women’s rights. In January, over 80,000 CREDO members voted to distribute $150,000 in donations to Color Of Change, Win Without War and Women’s March
– see how much each group received below.
These donations are made possible by CREDO customers and the revenue they generate by using our products and services. The distribution depends entirely on the votes of CREDO members like you. And for that, our January grant recipients thank you.
“Thank you for your support! CREDO members like you help Color Of Change amplify the voices of our 1.4 million members to move decision makers in corporations and government to do what is right for Black people, and all people, until justice is real.” To learn more, visit colorofchange.org.
“Thank you for your continued support and partnership! CREDO members like you help make it possible for Win Without War to work for a more peaceful and progressive U.S. foreign policy, focused on building peace and justice at home and abroad.” To learn more, visit winwithoutwar.org.
“Thank you for supporting our movement! When CREDO members like you help build our women-led resistance movement, you’re making history with us. Your support allows us to keep taking action on the issues that matter and training reSisters to join us.” To learn more, visit womensmarch.com.
Now check out the three groups we are funding in February, and cast your vote to help distribute our donations.
Every month, CREDO members vote to distribute $150,000 in donations to three great progressive causes – and every vote makes a difference. This February, you can support groups holding Donald Trump accountable, fighting for human rights across the globe and working to stop climate change and pass a Green New Deal by voting for American Constitution Society, Amnesty International and Sunrise Movement.
American Constitution Society is the nation’s leading progressive legal organization, with over 200 student and lawyer chapters in almost every state and on most law school campuses. ACS was founded on the principle that the law should be a force to improve the lives of all people.
Support from CREDO members will help ACS mobilize its network and provide activists with the tools they need to protect our freedoms, secure a fair and balanced court system, and hold Trump accountable for his illegal and unethical conduct.
Amnesty International is a global grassroots movement and one of the world’s foremost defenders of human rights. With millions of activists worldwide, we work tirelessly toward fair treatment for people everywhere.
Support from CREDO and its members will help Amnesty International USA as we work at home and abroad to fight injustice and help create a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.
Sunrise is building an army of young people to pass a Green New Deal that will stop climate change and put millions of Americans to work. We organize inside and outside the halls of power to fight for the survival and prosperity of our generation.
Sunrise made national headlines last November when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined Sunrise activists protesting in the office of incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushing for climate action. Funding from CREDO will help Sunrise build an army of young people to make the Green New Deal a top issue in the 2020 presidential race.
Your vote this month will determine how we divide $150,000 in donations among these three progressive groups. Be sure to cast your vote to support one, two or all three by February 28.
Posted on January 29, 2019
The Green New Deal is – finally – a plan with the scope and ambition necessary to transition our society and economy away from fossil fuels and fend off the oncoming climate crisis.
Scientific research is now virtually unanimous: Unless we take drastic action to get carbon emissions under control in the next decade, by the year 2040, the global ecosystem will tip into an irreversible slide toward breakdown. In the United States, warming will devastate every sector of the economy, from agriculture to public health.
The Green New Deal is a plan to prevent this – and more. A proposal by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Green New Deal would entirely transform the U.S. economy, shifting us to 100 percent renewable energy within 10 years. Named for Pres. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal that helped lift the United States out of the Great Depression in the 1930s, the Green New Deal is a sweeping program of investment – not only in clean energy, but also in jobs, income inequality, infrastructure, and racial justice. It would give us an economy that is sustainable, strong and fair after our transition away from carbon.
By some estimates, a Green New Deal could create 10 million jobs over the next decade by putting Americans to work on the sustainable technology and infrastructure we need to transition away from fossil fuels. It would reduce income inequality and bring solutions to communities that have been left behind.
Like Pres. Roosevelt’s New Deal, this plan is ambitious – but it is necessary and possible. To make it a reality, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, 45 members of Congress and groups like our allies at the Sunrise Movement – an organization of young climate activists – have urged Speaker Nancy Pelosi to establish a House Select Committee on a Green New Deal with a mandate to create a solid plan by 2020 to transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2030, invest in communities on the frontlines of poverty and pollution, and guarantee good jobs to all who are willing to work for these goals. More than 61,000 CREDO activists have called on House Democrats to support Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal.
In addition, activists took their demands directly to Speaker Pelosi to demand immediate action on a new select committee: Hundreds of activists from Sunrise Movement staged multiple protests in the Capitol, the first of which was attended by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez herself, urging Speaker Pelosi to establish the select committee and make climate action front and center in the new Congress. Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi stopped short of doing so. Instead, she established the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which does not have the same mandate that climate activists have pushed for, such as allowing the committee to write legislation to transform our economy in the way that’s needed to prevent a climate crisis.
But CREDO and our allies are not deterred by this small setback, and we’re ramping up pressure on the
To learn and read more about the Green New Deal, Vox has a detailed and lengthy explainer you can check out here.
If you’re concerned about climate change, here’s a step you can take right now: switch your phone service to CREDO Mobile and your home electricity to CREDO Energy. We fight for climate justice through CREDO Action and donate to environmental organizations that are fighting the climate crisis every day, as well as many other progressive nonprofits. Take a look at who we fund and vote for the organizations you think we should fund this month.
Posted on January 26, 2019
On Jan. 19, thousands turned out to stand up for women’s rights at the 2019 Women’s March, held in Washington, DC and in hundreds of communities across the globe.
We were so inspired by the creative and empowering signs carried by marchers, and members of the CREDO team were on hand to offer a few of our own designs. Here are some of our favorite posters from the marches in Washington DC and San Francisco.
Posted on January 25, 2019
It’s an open not-so-secret in Washington: Want to curry favor with Donald Trump? Book a room at his hotel.
T-Mobile executives, including outspoken CEO John Legere, stayed the day after announcing a $26 billion telecom mega-merger that needs approval by the Trump administration.
A stunning recent report by The Washington Post found that top T-Mobile executives not only stayed for three days at Trump’s Washington hotel after the merger announcement, but some have returned to the hotel up to 10 times, totalling at least 38 hotel nights booked. It’s hard to believe every other hotel in Washington was full.
As former DOJ Antitrust Division Chief Counsel Gene Kimmelman put it, “I can’t believe this is a coincidence. In mergers, companies look for any potential advantage they can find.”
T-Mobile joins a long line of corporations, foreign diplomats and special interest groups participating in a “pay-to-play” scheme to influence the greedy, self-centered (and not to mention hateful, racist and misogynist) occupant of the White House. Trump is using his position to enrich himself and his family, and T-Mobile is happy to play along as long as it can increase its bottom line.
And this isn’t the first time T-Mobile has dipped its toe into Trump’s swamp. Last year, we learned that T-Mobile hired Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to help grease the regulatory wheels at the DOJ to move along merger negotiations. T-Mobile even refused to fire Lewandowski after he publicly mocked an immigrant 10-year-old with Down syndrome who was forcibly ripped from her mother at the border.
T-Mobile may be putting profits above values, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Here at CREDO, we would never attempt to curry favor with the Trump administration. In fact, we’re actively fighting him and his policies – through our activism and donations to progressive organizations that our members make possible just by using their phones every day.
To learn more about how you can help make progressive change with the simple choice of your mobile phone
Posted on January 23, 2019
After news broke of the tragic death of 7-year-old asylum seeker Jakelin Caal
Protesters projected images of the three asylum-seekers on McAleenan’s home and demanded that he resign immediately:
From separating immigrant families to tear gassing them, McAleenan is carrying out all of Trump’s racist demands. He is dangerous, and he has to go. That’s why we’ve launched a petition – with already more than 50,000 CREDO member signatures – calling on the CBP commissioner to resign. You can add your name here.
This protest isn’t the first time CREDO activists have taken direct action to the homes of Trump administration officials who are enforcing and escalating Trump’s racist attacks on immigrants. Last June, CREDO members gathered outside the house of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, one of Trump’s leading henchmen who is implementing Trump’s inhumane immigration policy. We loudly played leaked audio of crying children who were separated from their parents at the border and marched with signs branding Nielsen a “child snatcher.” Our action brought nationwide attention – from the Washington Post to Newsweek, including one video that was viewed more than 1.3 million times.