Chat securely on Facebook with Synapsid
by Mirko Zorz - Wednesday, 26 June 2013.
Synapsid is an iOS app that promises an encrypted chat experience on Facebook.

In addition to having secure conversations, Synapsid allows you to: view friends profiles, add friends to your contacts, view and share pictures, view and respond to event invites, create new events with cover photos, host events from your pages, and more. For the purpose of this review I'll stick to the security aspect of sending and receiving encrypted chats.

Installation

What first caught my eye is something very unusual for an application that is all about privacy. Once you connect your Facebook account to the app, it wants access to a plethora of data, most of which it doesn't - or, better yet, shouldn't - need in order to work:

Synapsid would like to access your public profile, friend list, email address, custom friends lists, messages, friend requests, News Feed, relationships, relationship interests, birthday, chat status, work history, status updates, education history, events, groups, hometown, interests, current city, photos, religious and political views, follows and followers, videos, website, personal description, likes and your friends' relationships, relationship interests, birthdays, chat statuses, work histories, status updates, education histories, events, groups, hometowns, interests, current cities, photos, religious and political views, follows and followers, videos, websites, personal descriptions and likes.

What possible reason would there be for an app of this type to get the relationship details, political and religious views of me and my friends?

Working with Synapsid

Sending signed chats from the app is simple, all you have to do is select a person from your list of contacts that is running Synapsid and start a conversation:



Once text is entered and you click the Send button, there is a noticeable lag in contrast to what you're used to when chatting on Facebook. The developer notes this is not a frequent problem, and is related to the Facebook API and not the application, but it will certainly put off most users, especially those relying heavily on the chat function.

Unfortunately, there's another problem. When I send a message to another user, sometimes he can see the excerpt in the list of messages, but clicking on the message itself shows a blank chat screen. Refreshing doesn't help. Replying to the message works, but it takes several minutes to arrive, with the other screen still being blank:



At the same time, all signed chats are available on facebook.com which means they were definitely sent, despite the app not showing them.



It took me over 20 minutes to be able to actually see any of the signed chats on both devices so that I could start sending encrypted chats. However, when a message got through, I was able to see from the facebook.com interface that it was indeed encrypted and unreadable without the use of Synapsid, effectively shielding me from prying eyes.



My 2 cents

Throughout the test, the app interface was noticeably slow on an iPhone 4 running iOS 6.1.4 and lagging just a bit on an iPhone 5 equipped with the same version of iOS.

The entire process of sending messages and waiting for a long time is cumbersome and, frankly, not worth the effort unless you're seriously paranoid about the contents of your Facebook chats.

Hopefully the developer will be able to fix this situation with Facebook to make sure chats are delivered in a timely manner.

If it wasn't for these downsides, Synapsid would be a good app for many Facebook users that are sensitive about their privacy as it does what it promises, only very slowly.



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