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A campaign by WhatsApp owned by Meta says iMessage is less secure due to CEO Mark Zuckerberg making false claims about Apple’s messaging service.
An ad above Penn Station is doing the rounds, with heads from Meta and WhatsApp spreading the word. It suggests that WhatsApp is a safer and more private alternative to iMessage.
The ad features text bubble mockups based on Apple’s Messages app, one in green and one in blue. A third bubble shows “private bubble”, suggesting WhatsApp is a truly private platform.
Mark Zuckerberg posted an image of this ad on his Instagram, with a text calling WhatsApp “a far more private and secure” platform. Cross-platform encrypted messaging with Android and disappearing chats are the reasons behind his claim.
The post also points to Apple’s iCloud backups that contain iMessage encryption keys. However, it incorrectly states that iPhone users don’t have an option for end-to-end encrypted backups.
It is true that iPhone users cannot have encrypted conversations with Android users via iMessage. Apple has not adopted the RCS standard, which allows encrypted messaging in certain circumstances, nor has Apple offered Android iMessage support.
Disappearing messages is a gimmick offered by other messaging platforms like WhatsApp. It’s not clear why this is advertised as a more “private” feature when it’s prone to abuse.
Apple’s iMessage has an option to delete sent messages as long as it’s done within three minutes. However, when sexually explicit material, threats, or other abusive material is sent and then deleted, users lack the data to respond to that abuse.
Zuckerberg’s most inaccurate statement is about end-to-end encrypted backups. If an iPhone user chooses to do so, they can back up their iPhone locally to a computer with encryption.
If a user opts for iCloud backups, the encryption key for iMessage is included in the backup. This is to protect users from themselves so that messages are not lost if a password is forgotten.
However, Apple’s method means governments can subpoena Apple for information from a person’s encrypted iMessages stored in the iCloud backup. Apple says it only honors case-specific data requests and doesn’t disclose information outside of the scope provided.
A series of tweets by WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart made similar claims about Zuckerberg. He even incorrectly suggested that iMessage would fall back to SMS without warning or consent — although there’s a toggle for that.
Meta and Google both battle Apple’s dominant iMessage platform with half-truths and colorful advertising. Both companies seem to think they can convince users that their platforms are safe and secure despite years of collecting and monetizing user data.