5 free ways to keep your online conversations private

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Ever want to keep some of your online conversations private? Ever worry that if you’re Facebook was compromised, so would some of your most personal conversations?

Here are a handful of free (yes, free) ways to keep your conversations confidential. While some might be easier to use than others, they all offer the security you deserve to keep your most sensitive conversations private.

1) Peerio

Peerio is in a league of its own. It offers an intuitive interface akin to Gmail with the ability to collaborate on projects (sort of like Slack), all the while offering robust encryption built off of miniLock, “an open-source, peer reviewed, and proven encryption standard,” as noted on the platform’s website. It also offers an intelligent search feature, which allows you to find files based on keywords and people you sent it to (in case you forgot for the file’s name).

One of the more interesting features is Peerio’s “remote file destruction,”which allows you to “delete your file from the entire network and all users at any time.” In their words, “Peerio integrates cloud storage with a messaging platform so you can safely keep your important files online and ready to send from anywhere. With end-to-end encryption, messages and files are encrypted before leaving your computer and can only be read by you and your recipients. Even we can’t read them.”

2) Cryptocat

Cryptocat is a free end-to-end encryption service offered on desktop, mobile, and web browsing platforms. While they do tell you not trust any software with your life, they do boast some of the most robust end-to-end encryption. In their own words: “Cryptocat is a fun, accessible app for having encrypted chat with your friends, right in your browser and mobile phone. Everything is encrypted before it leaves your computer. Even the Cryptocat network itself can’t read your messages.”

If you’re looking for something easy to use with the ability to send photos and other files, Cryptocat should be your ‘go to’ app. You can even connect it to Facebook messenger to see (and only see) which of your friends use the platform.

3) One Time Secret

One Time Secret is a web platform that allows you share secrets, passwords, and any other kind of information you wish to keep discrete. It works by allowing you to produce a message, which is then sent to the email of whomever you wish to share it with. The receiver only gets one chance to view the content through a unique URL. Afterwards, the page is deleted. Forever.

In their words: “When you send people passwords and private links via email or chat, there are copies of that information stored in many places. If you use a one-time link instead, the information persists for a single viewing which means it can’t be read by someone else later. This allows you to send sensitive information in a safe way knowing it’s seen by one person only. Think of it like a self-destructing message.”

4) ChatStep

ChatStep is a browser-based platform for secure chatting. It functions like a chat room only its encrypted and none of your information is saved. You can create a private room straight from the front page. When your session is done and you exit out of the platform, all of the information is deleted from the all ready encrypted servers. While most Internet users and web surfers aren’t in need of group chat platforms every minute of the day, it works great for those instances when you want to (a) be anonymous and (b) keep your conversation safe and secure. It’s probably the easiest platform to use since all it requires is an Internet connection and a browser.

5) PGP (Pretty Good Security)

PGP is the industry standard among security experts. In fact, it’s what former NSA employee and whistleblower Edward Snowden used to communicate with the journalist Glenn Greenwald and others. While PGP encryption is free for everyone, it is quite difficult to get one’s head around it due to the necessary steps to set it up. Even Micah Lee, The Intercept’s technologist and security guard (if you will), stated, “Unfortunately, PGP is notoriously hard to use, as exemplified by Greenwald explaining how he could not initially talk to Edward Snowden because it was so difficult to set up.”

However, even if it was developed in 1991, it is still seen as one of the most robust encryption methods available.

For Now

While there are many innovative ways for notorious entities like the US’ National Security Agency (NSA) to undermine encryption, it makes it much more difficult for them to access protected content. But if you’re not living in any sort of petrified fear of the NSA attempting to collect your digital communications, then these aforementioned platforms will surely offer you the security you need to keep your private conversations, well, private.