WhatsApp has long been the subject of criticism when it comes to data protection. The Swiss Army is now making the Threema messenger service mandatory for its soldiers. What can the WhatsApp alternative do and is the switch also worthwhile for private individuals?
For Swiss soldiers it is now: WhatsApp ban! At least when it comes to business communication. Again Daily indicator reports, the Swiss army staff sent an email to members of the army in December. It is pointed out that from now on only the messenger service Threema is permitted.
In addition to WhatsApp, the soldiers are also banned from other services such as Telegram or Signal. The reason for this should be the higher security at Threema. But what makes the service so special? What can the app do and is it actually more secure than WhatsApp?
Threema: Communication is end-to-end encrypted
One feature of the application immediately catches the eye: The service was launched in 2012 by the Swiss Manuel Kasper founded, according to the company, the servers are also located in Switzerland. In doing so, the army is not only supporting a local company.
It also eliminates a problem that comes up again and again with messenger services such as WhatsApp. Because they are subject to the so-called Cloud Act. That means: US authorities such as the FBI are also allowed to access data from IT service providers that are stored abroad. The comparatively strict European data protection law applies to Threema.
But not much is saved anyway. Because the company only backs up metadata that is generated during message communication for as long as necessary. For example, they contain information about who is communicating with whom, when and how.
Threema founder: “We want to know as little as possible”
“We want to know as little as possible about our users,” said Silvan Engeler, one of the Threema founders, in March of last year SRF. “Such relationships between people are exciting for WhatsApp and Facebook – but not for us.”
And when it comes to user data (e.g. phone number, status or profile picture), Threema is anything but a data octopus. Communication with the provider is end-to-end encrypted. So far, so good, because you know that from WhatsApp. But Threema goes a little further.
The users remain completely anonymous here. It is possible to use the messenger service without specifying personal data such as telephone number or email address. In addition, you don’t need to access the phone book to get in touch with your friends.
In contrast to WhatsApp, Threema is chargeable
However, these benefits come at a price. Threema costs a one-time fee of 3.99 euros, and the website says: “Nothing is free. If you don’t pay for a service with money, you pay with your user data.” In addition to the usual chat and voice message functions, the app also includes features such as surveys that users can create themselves.
However, if you change the operating system, for example from Android to iOS, you have to buy Threema again. This is because the app store operators do not exchange their license data with one another.
And there is another disadvantage. In contrast to WhatsApp, Threema’s user numbers are negligible. While the big competitor has around two billion users worldwide, only around ten million people communicate via Threema. If you switch to the Swiss Messenger, you have to be prepared for the fact that there are significantly fewer friends on the app.
Overall, Threema is definitely an alternative to WhatsApp – but only one of many. For example, there is also the Signal service, which is recommended by many experts. Data protection is also very important here – but you have to enter your telephone number here.