Secure communication platform Signal offers end-to-end encryption to help ensure that nobody can read your messages without permission. But up until recently the app hasn’t exactly offered anonymity to folks using it to communicate with one another: because your account has always been tied to a phone number.

Now the company has announced it will let soon let users connect with usernames while keeping their phone numbers hidden.

Signal

In other recent tech news from around the web, Mozilla’s latest update to the Firefox web browser makes it easier to find recently visited websites and Asus has unveiled a bunch of new laptops with the latest AMD and Intel processors.

Keep your phone number private with Signal usernames [Signal]

Signal, a messaging app known for its focus on private and secure communications, has always tied a user’s account to their phone number. But now the company has announced that phone numbers will no longer be visible by default and you can create a username that lets you connect with others without giving out your phone number. The new features are currently in beta, but “will be rolling out to everyone in the coming weeks.”

Announcing the All-New 2024 ASUS Vivobook S Series Featuring AI-Enabled AMD Ryzen Processors [Asus]

Asus is refreshing its Vivobook S line of mainstream laptops with OLED displays. New AMD-powered models come with a choice of AMD Ryzen 5 7535HS, Ryzen 7 8845HS, or Ryzen 9 8945HS processors and screen sizes ranging from 14 inches to 16 inches. 

Asus Vivobook S14 OLED (M5406/AMD)

Introducing the All-New 2024 ASUS Vivobook S Series Powered by AI-Enabled Intel Core Ultra Processors [Asus]

These Intel-powered models come with similar display options, but feature Intel Core Ultra 5, Ultra 7, or Ultra 9 processors and feature Thunderbolt 4 certified ports (the AMD models also have 40 Gbps USB4 ports, but they don’t have Thunderbolt certification).

Asus Vivobook S14 (S5406/Intel)

Firefox 123 Release Notes [Mozilla]

Firefox 123.0 adds a search function for the Firefox View screen, allowing you to search all tabs in each subsection including Recent Browsing, Open Tabs, Recently Closed Tabs, Tabs from other Devices, or History. Note that you cannot currently search the contents of those web pages, but it will let you search for tabs by name, which can come in handy if you’ve got a long list. 

Keep up on the latest headlines by following @liliputing_liliputing.com on Mastodon. You can also follow Liliputing on X and Facebook. We’re also on Bluesky now, but just barely.

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  1. Will people be sufficiently swayed by this change to Signal, or will they move to something like SimpleX or Reticulum Sideband / Nomad Network instead?

    1. No.
      Instant messaging is, has been, and always will be chosen based on what the people you want to talk to are using.
      So, if there’s someone you need to talk to, and they don’t need to talk to you, you have to conform to their expectations or they won’t talk to you. It doesn’t matter how much of a snob they are, if they want their bubbles to be blue without installing any additional software, you need an iphone. If using encryption will make them think you’re a suspicious person with dangerous thoughts that you want to hide from exposure to people who will BRING JUSTICE down upon your evil thoughts, and you need to talk to them anyway even if just to convince them that they actually do have things to hide, you have to try and do so over a service they think is normal.
      And on top of that, asking someone to switch could be seen as a personal attack. It probably won’t be but do you want to risk it when you’ve been conversing fine so far? And why would they want to when you’ve been conversing fine so far, apparently?
      When you meet someone new, you don’t know what they’re like. Most people are reasonable in this regard, but how do you know that for sure? Can you afford to take the risk? You can’t, so you have to be prepared to conform to the norm.
      It might cause people to start making discussion groups on Signal however since finally you can’t just look up who someone in them is, but this is actually going to change how signal has to operate. Because once that happens and people are saying things the governments and media companies don’t like because they feel safe to say those things, Signal will be under immense pressure to actually remove content, ban users, and delete groups. Pressure that their current CEO has an ideological interest in conforming to, so they will do it. And to do that, Signal has to actually be able to read the contents of group chats, so what it will have to do is create a bunch of moderator accounts with their own keys who will not be shown as members of the group chat but will still get messages from it.
      And that’ll be the end of end to end encryption for Signal.

      1. “Nothing to hide but everything to protect.”

        P.S. Would you be willing to publicly broadcast all of your bank account details (password etc.)? I doubt it. Even the government – with their current phishing fraud awareness campaign – doesn’t believe you should have nothing to hide.
        Also, your contacts might live in countries with repressive, regressive regimes.

        1. Also, other apps can be made the norm, especially if you can demonstrate how quick and easy something like SimpleX is. People give up privacy for convenience but what if privacy can also be convenient? Of course, you’ll still be stuck with Apple or NSO’s backdoors/exploits if on iPhone so that’s the next bottleneck but step-by-step we can get there.

          1. I’m not the one who needs convincing. More specifically, I mean that presently people will accept that they need to hide certain information, but it’s a list of specific things, not everything. You’re not supposed to hide everything when your regime isn’t considered repressive. Trying to hide everything can easily make you look like you’re evil, according to the present moral imperatives to “stop the spread” of information we aren’t allowed to think is okay, which is always to be met by deleting that information or hiding it, and to do that, it must be visible to those with sufficient authority.
            Tensions and competition for attention are really high right now, so you’ll have to prove you’re a decent and valuable person to someone else first before they’ll let you influence their behavior. Yes, Signal is easy to use, but do you know how you’ll sound when you tell that other person “we need to communicate over this?”

          2. The corollary to that is when public officials refuse to be transparent and put into easily accessible public domain all pertinent correspondence – even when using the same platforms as the general public usually do (e.g. WhatsApp), pretending to have forgotten or lost them. This can be a breach of the ministerial code but they don’t care. Indeed some use ProtonMail etc. And the reason they do so is to cover up their own corruption. It’s very much one rule for them and another for the rest of the people.

            It’s actually pretty simple: if you hold confidential personal information (medical, sexual orientation, financial, business etc. on the devices you use to communicate, it’s perfectly reasonable to not want that to be exploited by people whom you haven’t given express and explicit permission to do so. So when to use WhatsApp (and other similar apps) it requires you to grant it permission to access every aspect of your device, you simply explain to your peers that you don’t wish to grant those permissions because there’s simply no legitimate justification for it needing them all, especially if you can’t fine tune which areas it does and doesn’t have access to, with proprietary code you’ve no idea what it’s really doing – whether it’s really obeying any specific permissions or installing malware, and you suggest that there’s a much better, quicker and easier to set up app which is open source and respects the specific permissions you grant. An app you’re in control of, rather than the app being in control of you. Make it popular through your own social circle and via pop culture.

          3. Most men can envisage the possibility of becoming fathers.

            They can now definitely envisage the prospect of being illegally cut off from all of their contacts in one fell swoop and unjustly reported to the Police by Google after using remote medical applications (effectively mandated in response to Covid-19) to show the doctor their child’s symptoms.

          4. Furthermore, if Matrix is good enough for the French Government, public officials and fonctionnaires, why isn’t it good enough for the public?

            If you were living in India, would you be ok with the BJP knowing every message you exchange?

            After all the exploitative abuse exposed by Snowden et al, and the fact that it’s only gotten worse since, it’s pretty clear that either:
            everyone should have privacy
            or
            no one should have privacy from anyone.

          5. The confidential personal information examples you listed are on most people’s lists of acceptable things to conceal, and you’ll be permitted to conceal when you need to transmit them, yes, but a person’s values, well, I just don’t think they are. If a person’s values are misinformed, that person might end up supporting evil thinking it was good, and attacking those who oppose evil, thinking them evil (which is easy to imagine because in truth no one is completely good). I think most people will recognize this. Which justifies the attacking those with the wrong values, in the minds of many.
            I’ve heard it said that if you’re too afraid to attach your name to your opinions, to really stake your reputation on them, then your opinion isn’t worth anything because you weren’t willing to risk anything to state it. I don’t really believe that, but someone you’re trying to talk to might.

            And asking someone to make something popular through pop culture is a tall order, you know? In fact it’s damned expensive. Because of the technology we have, people are really constantly seeing something or other that wants their attention all the time, to put anything into pop culture means pushing something else out of it. You’ve got to pay for that. Search engine ranking, appearance in movies and TV shows, in ads between the shows, promotion in the entertainment segments calling themselves the news, ads on websites, all of this is something you have to pay for and you have to risk the criticism of putting your ads next to something that law or case law or standards compliance prohibits you from putting your ads next to since it’s considered an endorsement by many annoying loudmouths who don’t think of ads as anything more than annoying noise or people who see it as an opportunity to earn their keep as workers whose business it is attack those who endorse the wrong things.
            So sometimes, you’ve got to not only push your thing in, push the thing it’s replacing out, but also reduce the influence of powerful groups who do not think that your thing deserves a place in the world, like all those governments who have been trying to ban encryption through legislation.
            I very much doubt anyone will ever push out the notion that an insecure person, hell, an insecure animal, is either weak, or dangerous. In fact, I think this puts an upper limit on animal intelligence that’s the answer to the Fermi Paradox.

            This is all emotional appeal by the way, because most people don’t understand how computers work, what code is, what programming is like, what encryption does, or how to use a computer. If they did most people would use end to end encryption. That’s who you need to convince, the people who don’t understand these concepts, if you don’t want someone to tell you you have to get an iphone to talk to them.

            But you know who you can’t convince, is people who will actually be too scared to talk to you if they can’t prove who you are and not just block you, but report you to a trusted higher authority, just in case you’re not actually as nice as you seem to be at first, so that you can’t say the possibly bad things you said again to anyone else. And there are transactions with concerns for which this level of caution is considered reasonable, for some of the parties anyway.

            Maybe the point I’m trying to make through all this is that as much as you might want to be the change you want to see in the world, the moment you try that, you cut off all chance to gain more authority and make a bigger change (with bigger negative consequences when you try). So, you’re going to have to suck it up and install every damn thing you’ve heard of, ’cause you’ve got about five seconds to do something on your phone before people lose interest in you.

      2. I agree with the debbie downer (realistic) view that there will be some awkwardness and shunning behavior towards those looking to use alt messaging apps. Funnily enough I’ve recently ran into the opposite experience. I’m part of a small mens group that meets every week. We had a normal SMS group chat going at first, but then we kept adding people, and a couple people moved away, and they started talking about using WhatsApp and/or whatever other mainstream ones there are. I was like “ehh, sorry guys, I’m trying to avoid stuff like Meta and Google as much as possible” (I’m using a degoogled phone). One guy mentions Signal and how it’s privacy oriented so I looked it up later that day, however I’ve become so… uh, lets just say I do a lot of research into any company I’m dealing with these days, that I wasn’t happy with how much the President of Signal was into combating “racism, sexism, inequality” and other buzz words. So I had to awkwardly tell him in the next meeting that I’m not going to use that app either. (In a perfect world I wouldn’t want those things either, but you know how it goes, those are red flag words at this point). Which sucks because they were actually all on board with changing things up just to include me.
        So now they’re using some mainstream app and have it set up to send me regular texts… sorry guys.
        It’s an innocent Christian guys group chat, as for now in the US it is still legal to be Christian, I figured I’d rather receive SMS than download an app I don’t feel fully comfortable with.
        If anyone reads this feel free to correct me, as I’m no privacy expert, just very anti Meta, Google, etc.