Encrypted Twitter DMs could use an app you already have

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Twitter CEO and owner Elon Musk is reportedly keen to encrypt direct messages on the service and it looks like the implementation might actually use an app that many of us already have installed.

According to code discovered within Twitter, the company is already testing using the open-source Signal protocol as a way to encrypt messages — but it might not work as well as hoped.

Bad Signal

Jane Manchun Wong tweet

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The use of the Signal protocol was first spotted by Twitter code-diver Jane Manchun Wong. Details shared in a tweet from her now-deleted account show that Twitter was indeed using the Signal protocol during testing. But one former Twitter engineer says that it's already been tried, tested, and ditched.

Brandon Carpenter replied to Wong's tweet to say that her screenshot showed code that he wrote in 2018, suggesting that someone might now be using it during one of Musk's infamous "code review" sessions.

Carpenter says he wrote "most of the TwitterSignalProtocol library" which uses the Signal protocol. However, the idea was later ditched. Carpenter says that "the company decided not to spend the effort necessary to give the prototype feature parity with regular DMs." Or, in short, the testing never got as far as incorporating all of the features we're accustomed to already.

Musk has already said that he wants to end-to-end encrypt direct messages which could give Twitter an entry into the secure messaging market. WhatsApp, Signal, and others already offer end-to-end encryption, but with most people already having a Twitter account, it's possible they could just use that instead.

Musk's buyout of Twitter continues to lurch from one problem to another, whether that's people being fired or thousands of banned accounts being reinstated. But encrypted direct messages would undoubtedly be an improvement for Twitter users. Whether the feature will ship, or be locked behind the Twitter Blue subscription, remains to be seen.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.