Last week, the ambitious alt-smartphone company, Nothing, had Android users buzzing with excitement over its announcement of the Nothing Chats app. The promise? The ability to send iMessage-like blue-bubbled texts without needing an iPhone. However, the celebration was short-lived, as the app was swiftly taken down from Google Play within 24 hours due to grave privacy concerns.
Nothing Chats was built on Sunbird’s platform, boasting “end-to-end encryption” on the Nothing website, assuring users that neither Nothing nor Sunbird could access their messages. However, it was soon revealed that the app failed to deliver on its privacy claims. Tech researchers uncovered that both Nothing and Sunbird were storing users’ messages and attachment links in plain text, rendering the supposedly encrypted data easily accessible to those with unauthorized access.
A researcher known as “wukko” on X-formerly-Twitter called the app an “absolute privacy nightmare,” disclosing that the app not only sent and stored all data unencrypted on Firebase but also transmitted all messages and attachments to Sentry, a crash-reporting cloud platform.
Further corroboration came from researchers at 9to5Google and Texts.com, collectively concluding that Nothing and Sunbird were storing user texts, images, and various attachments without proper encryption. In response, Nothing promptly retracted the beta Chats feature, updating its webpage to cite “several bugs” and announcing a delay in the launch until further notice.
Critics, however, were quick to label the privacy issues as more than mere bugs. The community response on X was harsh, emphasizing the severity of the security and privacy lapses. The top note on X declared, “Contrary to Nothing’s claim about fixing ‘bugs’ in their upcoming app, these issues are serious security & privacy lapses, falsely advertised as end-to-end encrypted, exposes user data in plain text.”
For users who had eagerly anticipated the app, this turn of events serves as a stark reminder to remain cautious about the data shared on messaging platforms. As the drama unfolds, the unfortunate beat of the green bubble march continues, leaving Android users to navigate the tumultuous landscape of secure messaging apps.