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Signal Downloads Are Way Up Since the Protests Began


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Protestors in Providence, RI, earlier this month.

Many protestors are using the Signal encrypted messaging app to organize and participate in protests against police brutality (without being spied upon by law enforcement).

Credit: Matt O'Brien/Associated Press

Over the last two weeks, the number of Americans who have downloaded Signal, an encrypted messaging application, has skyrocketed. Many are using the app to organize and participate in protests against police brutality (without being spied on by law enforcement).

The week before George Floyd died on May 25, about 51,000 first-time users downloaded Signal, according to data from the analytics firm Sensor Tower. The following week, as protests grew nationwide, there were 78,000 new downloads. In the first week of June, there were 183,000. (Rani Molla at Recode noted that downloads of Citizen, the community safety app, are also way up.)

Organizers have relied on Signal to devise action plans and develop strategies for handling possible arrests for several years. But as awareness of police monitoring continues to grow, protest attendees are using Signal to communicate with friends while out on the streets. The app uses end-to-end encryption, which means each message is scrambled so that it can only be deciphered by the sender and the intended recipient.

"If you don't have end-to-end encryption, by definition, there are other parties that can read your messages," said Joseph Bonneau, an assistant professor of computer science at New York University who has researched cryptography. "That doesn't mean that they necessarily do, but it usually means that they can and, in particular, depending on what jurisdiction you are in, they can be ordered to by law enforcement."

 

From The New York Times
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