Thoughts on Wire Messenger

What are your thoughts on Wire? Personally, I wouldn’t make it my daily messenger, but I do find it a helpful backup since it can be accessed from any web browser. If my primary messenger ever goes down, Wire or Matrix would be my go-to for an alternative since it’s easy to create an account and access it from any web browser, without the need for an app.

I would avoid it:

  • Jurisdiction and infrastructure inside EU and USA, both 14-eyes
  • Contact info / identifiers / usage data / diagnostics collected through usage
  • User data and/or metadata sent to parent company and/or third parties
  • Reproducible builds aren’t used to verify apps against source code
  • Can’t sign up to the app anonymously
  • Forced to trust a centralized directory server
  • Directory service could be modified to enable a MITM attack
  • Only notified of a contact’s fingerprint changing when you have previously verified them
  • Not all personal information is hashed to protect against certain attacks
  • Metadata not encrypted
  • Company logs timestamps/IP addresses
  • Undocumented design and infrastructure

To be fair, wouldn’t some of these criticisms also apply to other messengers? Signal’s jurisdiction is in the US, Matrix in the UK, and Session in Australia, which are all Five-Eyes countries. In my experience, Wire has only ever demanded an email address (though Michael Bazzell said sometimes it asked for a phone number), which is arguably less bad than Signal’s phone number requirement, though Signal hashes the number.

That being said, the metadata problems, particularly the sending of information to third parties, is one of my deal breakers, so I guess I’ll have to re-evaluate my backup options. I was thinking about this after re-listening to Michael Bazzell’s old podcast episode on redundancy.

It could be said but with Signal the peer-reviewed audits and recent attempts by government to gather user data from its servers show that they collect the bare minimum metadata possible. Signal also doesn’t have reproducible builds except for android. You can’t signup anonymously or add a contact without trusting a centralized server. if you want to avoid this, choose something that offers E2EE by default, strong metadata protections, doesn’t require a phone number/data plan and that is audited and well documented and within reach of anybody even the technically unsavvy. The infrastructure of most services you use can be reverse engineered and backdoored but with Signal they make sure they collect no raw messages or other PII that can be used by government or state actors. Only the signup timestamps and last message timestamp are collected.

I used Signal with everyone I’m willing to give a phone number to (and even then, it’s an anonymous VoIP number), and Matrix with everyone I’m not willing to share that number with. I only use homeservers on Matrix that don’t require an email address to sign up. Since Wire is out of the question now, I’ll look into making Session my backup. I like the concept of Briar, but only three other people and myself use Android within my circles.