Confide — the confidential messaging app that White House staffers under the Trump administration use to gossip with each other — is facing a class action lawsuit alleging that its privacy promises are tantamount to false advertising.
Confide lets users exchange messages that self-destruct after a few seconds, Snapchat-style. The service promises users two special features to further ensure the confidentiality of the self-destructing messages.
First, Confide only reveals messages a line or two at a time, including the name of the sender, to protect against people peeking over your shoulder. Second, much like Snapchat, Confide sends an alert if the recipient tries to screenshot your message.
“Absent these protections, Confide knows that it cannot deliver on its promise to consumers that communications sent through it will be confidential,” reads the complaint, as reviewed by Business Insider, in part.
The problem, alleges the lawsuit, is that the Windows and Mac apps circumvent both of these protections: If you’re using the Confide software on a computer, says the complaint, it displays the full message, including the name of the recipient, all at once. The lawsuit also alleges that, from there, it’s easy to take a picture of the screen.
The lawsuit, which seeks class action status, was filed in New York by Michigan resident Jeremy Auman. The suit seeks damages on behalf of Auman and any other Confide user “who suffered injury as a result of Confide’s false advertising.” Auman purchased a $US6.99 per month Confide subscription in January 2017.
“We have now received the complaint and had an opportunity to review it,” says a Confide spokesperson. “Not surprisingly, the accusations set forth in the complaint are unfounded and without merit. We look forward to responding to this frivolous complaint and seeing this case swiftly thrown out of court.”
Our own tests
In a brief test conducted by Business Insider, we were able to confirm that Confide for Mac does indeed reveal the full message at once — it appears redacted at first, but moving your mouse cursor over it reveals all. From there, that does seem to make it easy to snap a picture of the screen that contains a full version of the message, as we’ve done here:
If you move the mouse cursor away from a message, it appears redacted under bright orange bars, like so:
If you try to take a screenshot of a message in Confide for Mac, it simply shows up as a blank grey rectangle, with no text (or anything else) legible. However, Confide for Mac doesn’t tell the other party that you even tried to take a screenshot; a key privacy feature on the smartphone versions that’s intended to keep users honest.
For comparison, the iPhone and Android versions of Confide do indeed show messages only a line or two at a time as you move your finger over it. So while it does allow you to take a screenshot, any attempts will likely only yield a partial message, with most of it still covered under grey redaction bars. Like so:
So while it does seem at least slightly more possible to use Confide for Mac or PC for nefarious spying purposes, at least technically, it seems probable that the software will get an update sooner rather than later to address these issues.