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Is X Listening? Protect Your Calls From Privacy Leaks

by Hemant Saxena on March 21, 2024

X, the company formerly know as Twitter, has joined the ranks of messaging apps like Facebook Messenger in offering audio and video calling, and not just for those with paid accounts. While this may seem like a useful feature for at least a small segment of users, the implementation could put your privacy at risk unless you take specific actions to prevent it.

With its initial implementation, there are two ways that X is leaking data from your calls. By default, your IP address is exposed, so someone could easily determine your general location (generally city, region, or country, depending on your ISP) and what ISP or cellular network you are using. Law enforcement or other government surveillance entities could determine your precise location using data from your ISP.

Secondly, while your calls are probably encrypted between your phone and X's servers using standard internet data security standards (though this isn't confirmed), the available information from X (which is limited) suggests that calls are not encrypted within X. So, X could potentially monitor your conversations either for data mining purposes or ad targeting. And law enforcement or other government agencies could get access to listen in, as well – not good news for journalists or activists in many countries.

Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do about the lack of encryption at X other than using another platform. Elon Musk has stated that the priority will be good call quality at first, rather than implementing encryption.

However, there is a quick fix for hiding your IP address. If revealing your IP address to your call partner is your primary concern, you can do that by turning on on the 'Enhanced Call Privacy' feature (instructions for that below). Or, you can use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to hide your IP address entirely from X and other apps and websites on your device.

We consistently recommend two VPNs at Techlicious: NordVPN provides an extensive server network, and high-speed connections, all at a reasonable monthly rate of $4.49 (with annual billing). For a more budget-friendly choice with a slightly smaller server selection, SurfShark is available at $3.99 per month with an annual payment.

Closeup of phone screen showing Enhanced Call Privacy

How to enable Enhanced Call Privacy in the X calling feature

  1. To manage your calling settings on X, start by opening the app on your phone and tapping the Messages tab at the bottom right.
  2. Next, in the window displaying your conversations, tap the Settings cog in the upper-right corner.
  3. Under the Settings screen, you'll find the option to Enable audio and video calling. If you have this toggled on, you will see another toggle for Enhanced call privacy. It's disabled by default. To turn it on, simply tap the toggle.
  4. If you want to control who can call you, adjust the checkboxes under Allow audio and video calls from according to your preference. If you allow it for People in your address book, this will require sharing your contacts with X.

[Image center: Hemant Saxena/Techlicious]

As a lifelong tech enthusiast, Hemant Saxena is always looking for the latest gadgets that intersect with his hobbies. For more than a decade, he has been writing about consumer gadgets, popular apps, and social media tips for publications, including Windows Club and Techmate Tricks.


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