Private message box vs. encrypted messaging- Which is the safest choice?


To communicate sensitive information online, there are two main options to consider – private message boxes and encrypted messaging. Both have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to keeping your conversations truly private.  A private message box is a web-based service for users to exchange messages that self-destruct after being read. The most popular private message service is Privnote. Privnote allows you to type or paste any text into their website and get a unique, encrypted link in return. When the recipient opens the link, they can view the message one time only before it’s automatically deleted from Privnote’s servers. The message is not stored anywhere – neither on Privnote’s servers nor on the recipient’s device. This makes it practically impossible for anyone else to intercept the message. Some key advantages of using a private message box like Privnote include:

  1. Ephemeral messages – The messages self-destruct so there’s no record left behind. This prevents unauthorized access if your or the recipient’s accounts are ever hacked.
  2. No installation needed – Private message boxes work through any web browser, so there’s no app to download or account to create. The recipient just needs to click the link to view the message.
  3. Sender control – The sender generates the link and retains control over who can view the message. You don’t have to worry about the recipient saving, forwarding, or taking screenshots.
  4. However, there are some downsides to consider as well:
  5. Limited security – While your message content is encrypted in transit, Privnote itself could be compelled to hand over data to authorities if legally required.
  6. Accessibility issues – Recipients can only view messages while they have the link open, which could pose issues if they lose connectivity. Privnote also lacks accessibility features for visually impaired users.

No recipient verification – You have no way to confirm the intended recipient opens the note, leaving room for impersonation.

End-to-End Encrypted Messaging Compares

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a system where only the communicating users can read messages sent between them. The messages are encrypted on the sender’s device and only decrypted on the recipient’s end. This prevents third parties, including the service provider itself, from accessing the cryptographic keys needed to decrypt the conversation.  Some examples of end-to-end encrypted messaging apps include Signal, WhatsApp, Telegram (in Secret Chat mode), and Apple’s iMessage. Here are some key advantages of E2EE messaging over private message boxes:

  1. Encryption keys are stored only on users’ devices rather than a company’s servers. This makes it practically impossible for anyone else, even the service provider, to decrypt messages.
  2. Apps confirm identities by linking devices to phone numbers and generating unique security codes. how to private message? This prevents impersonation by third parties.
  3. Conversations are securely stored on users’ devices so you can refer back any time.
  4. Flexible platform – Most encrypted chat apps work across mobile and desktop, providing more options for communication.
  5. Apps offer extras like group chats, voice/video calling, and file sharing.

Limitations to consider

  1. Metadata collection – While message content is encrypted, metadata like who messaged whom and when may still be visible to the service provider.
  2. Device security requirements – Encrypted apps only provide security if users’ devices are also properly secured against threats like malware.
  3. Backups limit control – Recipients could theoretically back up and store conversations outside the app after decryption.