June 29, 2022

Dropping WhatsApp? Despite Privacy Concerns, Nostalgia Drives Users to ICQ


Here’s an interesting tidbit from The Wall Street Journal:
ICQ was a pioneering, mid-1990s internet messaging service then used on bulky PCs on dial-up. It was a precursor to AOL Instant Messenger, and was last in vogue when the TV show “Friends” was in its prime and PalmPilots were cutting edge.

It’s been modernized over the years, and now is an app for smartphones. Lately it has skyrocketed up Hong Kong’s app charts, with downloads jumping 35-fold in the week ending Jan. 12.

“It recalls my childhood memories,” said 30-year-old risk consultant Anthony Wong, who used ICQ when he was in grade school. He has since connected with more than two dozen friends on the platform after some bristled this month at a privacy policy update by WhatsApp that would allow some data to be stored on parent Facebook Inc.’s servers.
Back in 1998 Slashdot’s CmdrTaco wrote a story about ICQ being ported to Palm Pilot, and linked to a Wired story about ICQ security flaws.
In fact, you can almost tell the history of ICQ just with Slashdot headlines.

– AIM and ICQ to be Integrated (2002)

– Russian Company Buys ICQ (2010)

What’s happened since? ICQ’s entry on Wikipedia cites a 2018 article in a Russia newspaper.
According to a Novaya Gazeta article published in May 2018, Russian intelligence agencies have access to online reading of ICQ users’ correspondence. The article examined 34 sentences of Russian courts, during the investigation of which the evidence of the defendants’ guilt was obtained by reading correspondence on a PC or mobile devices. Of the fourteen cases in which ICQ was involved, in six cases the capturing of information occurred before the seizure of the device.

The reason for the article was the blocking of the Telegram service and the recommendation of the Advisor to the President of the Russian Federation Herman Klimenko to use ICQ instead.