It’s International Privacy Day! For many individuals, it’s a day to get educated on privacy, to understand what that means to you and what are the best tools, apps, and platforms to protect it. For many companies, it’s a day to take stock in what is being done to protect user privacy.
At Viber, privacy is a point of pride and is a constant consideration with every new feature and business decision.
The state of privacy in 2022
Data was the buzzword for 2021, and it will probably stay that way for the foreseeable future. What do messaging apps, and other technology companies, know about us? What are they doing with this information? These have become central questions.
The key is to balance profitability and accountability – making sure companies can justify their data collection and only collect the data they need to make their product better while continuing to be a productive business.
As more people care about their personal data and how it’s protected, messaging apps, including Viber, WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal, will have to continue having an honest conversation with people on what is being done to protect them – and what exactly is collected about them and how it’s used.
The privacy dilemma
Striking the perfect balance between keeping people’s chats secure and providing a feature-rich experience is challenging. How can an app be optimized for every user without any information? How can a messaging app provide a sense of control without overwhelming the user or taking away from their experience?
In 2021, we sent out a survey to thousands of Viber users to determine if we should take privacy a step further – make all messages disappear by default. We saw that most respondents cared about privacy and did not want anything to be stored on Viber. At the same time, 81% of respondents also said that they want to be able to look at old messages.
We decided to give our users a choice. Anyone can go into their privacy settings and choose whether their messages are backed up on Google and Apple clouds or not at all since Viber doesn’t store private conversations on its own clouds at all. We even offer two types of secret chatting – the first is Disappearing Messages within existing one-on-one or group chats, and the second is Hidden Messages which can be accessed by PIN-only. These are just two of the many security features offered.
How Viber views privacy in messaging apps
In some companies, security is a messy topic that no one really wants to deal with. At Viber, our team is dedicated to making sure it stays a top priority and transparent to everyone.
Our Chief Information Officer, (aka guardian of user privacy) Amir Ish-Shalom, oversees the technological aspects of the app and makes sure “that we gather only the data required for getting the necessary insights for improving our service while protecting the users’ privacy and keeping their data safe and secure.”
At the same time, Idit Arad, Viber’s General Counsel, leads the legal team in ensuring that we always meet the requirements set by privacy laws and regulations around the world.
“I try to put myself in the shoes of our users, I care about my privacy, and I know our users do too… I always think about what our users expect, on top of what the law requires.”
When asked what makes them proudest about Viber’s approach, they both echo the same sentiment, perfectly summed up by Idit: “We run a successful company, but we all know that this success goes alongside privacy, and thanks to privacy, not on account of it.”
Spam, scams, and security
Being online means you might run into or get sent spammy content. We know this at Viber, which is why we’ve implemented two methods to keep spam as far away from you as possible.
The first is spam reporting in Communities – you have the option to report Communities and the messages sent to them. Those deemed as spam by our system based on reports will be removed from Viber. It’s that simple.
Communities are meant to be a fun and safe space where you are able to stay up to date on anything from the news, your favorite sports teams, or celebrities without being exposed to spam.
The second method is our automatic spam-check. It will scan messages from unsaved contacts and let you know whether they’re safe to open or not. You can also enable it by long-tapping any message in any chat (whether it’s a saved contact or not).
To turn on automatic scanning:
On Viber for Desktop, click More > Settings > Privacy and Security.
On Android and iPhone, Settings > Privacy > Auto spam check.
As always, we believe at Viber in honest, unfiltered conversations with the people who make Viber what it is – you, our users. Let us know what you think about privacy and its future in messaging apps on Twitter.