- Account information
- About groups
- About group memberships
- About group administration
- The web version of e-locals
- Private Message Server
Why do I need to setup an account, can't you just use my phone number to create an account automatically like some other message services do?
Identifying your phone is easy but has limitations, especially when you like to use multiple devices to access e-locals, for instance when using the web version or a tablet without sim card, or when you replace your phone device or change your phone number. Therefor we rely on the proven name-password combination for setting up an account.
What is my login name used for?
Your login name is just used for logging in. We hope that you use your real name here because that increases the chance that you will remember your login name. You can also login with your email address, but email addresses might change while your login name can stay the same forever.
Why do you need my email address? Will I receive unsollicited emails?
Your email address is used for the following only:
- Verification of your account. We will send you a verification email when you register with a follow up link.
- When you forget your password you can request a new password to be send to your email address.
My account is blocked and I should wait for a verification email. What's about that?
If you set up a new account or if you change the email address of an existing account, you will receive a verification email on the email address supplied. You have to click on the link in the email address to (re)activate your account. This is to verify that the email address actually exists and works. If you don't receive a verification email please check your junk mail folder or mail settings.
What are identities?
An identity is a representation of you to others. The way you present yourself may vary according to the type of contact you are approaching, so this is why we provide a possibility to use separate identities on public channels and to contacts in your phone's address book.
Which identity is used for what?
As a general rule only identities of the same kind can communicate together. So if you communicate with someone's public identity your public identity is used as well. If you send a message to someone's real identity (by selecting him from your phone's address book), the receiver will see your real identity as well. It is never possible that someone from a public channel will see your real identity. Let's explain it a bit more in detail:
- If you subscribe on channels or communicate with people you meet on public channels this is always done with your public identity. It is up to you how much you want to reveal about who you really are. (Be aware however that if you misrepresent yourself, for example by pretending to be a young girl while in reality you are a mature man, people tend to assign a negative remark about your identity if they find out. So anonimity is fine, but misleading is not.)
- If you send a message to someone you select from your phone's contacts database, the receiver will see you like he has recorded you into his own phone's address book. This might be your real name but also something like 'Dad', 'Mom', or 'Mechanic'. You simply have no control how other people have listed you in their own phone's address book.
- If you contact someone by using your phone's contacts database, but the receiver has not put you into his own contacts database, he will see your 'real identity' as the sender of the message. After all, he needs to know who tries to communicate with him and if you selected his real identity from your phone's contacts database, you probably want him to see your real name as well.
- If you meet someone on a public channel, and at some point you would like the other to put your contact details into his phone's contacts database, you can send him your electronic business card, which is your 'real identity'.
- You can also setup an alternate identity. Some channels (like dating channels) offer the option to use an alternate identity to avoid being cross linked to other public channels. When someone is using an alternate identity it is to other members clearly marked as such to avoid confusion and/or abuse. And of course you don't have to participate on channels where they allow people to use their alternate identity.
What happens if someone from my phone's contact database is also on the same public channel as me?
It is really simple. He will see your public identity on the public channel and also when you click on his public identity to send him a private message he will see your public identity as the sender. Only if you send a message to his real identity (by using your phone's contacts database) he will see your real identity as the sender. So you can actually have two separate dialogs with the same person: one with both of you using your public identities and one with both of you using your real identities.
What kind of groups do you offer?
Groups are groups of people communicating. The traditional group is established by a group administrator and he invites other individuals to join the group. Well, e-locals can do that, but it can do much more!
- Bubble groups. These are the most innovative groups we offer. Bubble groups are worldwide but any member has a limited geographical range. Your audience is a group of people within a virtual bubble around you. Although the group exists worldwide, you are always communicating with people within a certain range around you. It is like you are communicating with small radio transmitters which has a limited range.
- Area groups. These are groups which are bound to a certain geographical area. You will receive an invitation-notification when you stroll into such an area. This could be a group of a camp site, a high school, a sport club facility, or anything you can imagine. With one click you are immediately into contact with the other people who are joining the same geographical group.
- Conventional groups. The channel operator invites the group members.
About group memberships
What is a membership?
Membership of a group simply means that you are able to participate in the group, i.e. by posting messages. In the groups-tab of the main menu you will only see groups listed to which you are allowed to subscribe, so this means that you can subscribe to any group you see.
Why can't I unsubscribe from a certain group?
There are a few mandatory groups, like the e-locals group where we announce important information about maintenance of the system, the availability of new updates, etc. There is also a sponsor group from which you can only unsubscribe if you have a premium membership. Either you or the sponsors are paying to keep this system running.
Can I hide my membership so that I won't show up on the memberlist?
No. The other members like to see who are receiving their messages. But you are participating with your 'public identity' anyway, which doesn't have to be your real name. On some groups it is even possible to subscribe with your alternate identity. More about identities
Can I change a membership from my public identity to my alternate identity or the other way around?
Yes, but only if you have not been posting any messages in that group during the last 14 days. This to avoid confusion and abuse.
About group administration
What is a group administrator?
The group administrator is the person who established and maintains the group. It is also possible that a group is established by an already existing private group. This way all group members of the private group became administrators of the new group.
How can I see who the group administrator is?
You can find this information on the info page of the group. An administrator can however choose not to display the administration info. In that case there is no way to know who is in control of the group.
I have a complaint about one of the members of a group. What can the administrator do?
In area groups and private groups the administrator can block or unsubscribe such a member. In public groups he can't offer much help, but you of course can still block the offending member from contacting you.
The web version of e-locals
What are the limitations of the web version?
As e-locals has primarily been designed as an app for smartphones there are some limitations in the web version:
- To use the web version you either have to link your account to a smartphone, or you have to upgrade to a premium membership. Reason for this is that with a smartphone you are unlikely to create dozens of accounts (it would cost you as many phones and sim cards) but with the web version you could easily do so, which would compromise the user experience of other e-locals users. By linking the web version to a smartphone or by requesting a paid membership we avoid abuse of the e-locals system.
- Desktop computers usually don't have a GPS attached, so the location of the user, which is so important for the functionality of e-locals, is retrieved by less precise information like the provider and the wifi connection.
- Due to the limitations of web browsers you won't receive popups for new messages coming in.
The web browser comes up with a question about providing the geolocation to your web app. Why is this?
The main feature of e-locals is geolocation awareness, so it relies heavily on knowing your location. In smartphones this goes largely unnoticed and automatically, but browsers need the users permission before revealing the location. You have to grant e-locals permission to obtain your geolocation otherwise it won't be able to participate in bubble channels and location based channels.
Private Message Server
What is a "Private Message Server" ("PMS")?
A private message server is a service you can set up on your home network which communicates directly with the senders and recipients of your e-locals messages. This way, all your messages are handled by your PMS and no longer by us. We are out of the loop and your messages are truly private and will never reach our system.
Why does this feature exist? For who is it?
In the past we would seal a letter in an envelope, and expected it to be read only by the genuine addressee, even if it was an innocent letter to ones beloved granny. But these days it has become common practice that all communication is carried out in the open, with providers listening in and scanning the contents for marketing purposes, agencies making systematic copies of all data, etc. There is a growing concern among people about privacy. We are supporting the idea that data should be kept in control by the creators of that data, hence the option to setup a private message server. Your messages are yours, if you want to keep them under your pillow, it is your right to do so.
This feature could facilitate criminals! Isn't that bad?
Cars also facilitate criminals. Would that be a reason to ban cars? Of course not! The vast majority of car users are law obeying citizens. We also expect that the vast majority of e-locals users are law obeying citizens. Privacy is a human right and there are many legitime reasons for desiring privacy in conversations with other law obeying citizens.
Are there reasons for not setting up a PMS?
Yes. If you operate a large busy group channel, the messages are more or less “public” anyway, so it can be reasoned that it doesn't make much sense to crank up the privacy to a very high level. A PMS will have the side effect that the users can use only one device to participate and replacing their device requires some action from you, which can become quickly annoying on large channels. A PMS needs to be online 24 hours and could be more vulnerable to network and power outages.
Why does the owner of the PMS has to grant me permission to use a new phone to continue the conversation?
The private message server needs to be sure it delivers the message to the intended recipient, and not to anyone pretending to be you. Therefor, during the first contact, a secret code is set up between your device and the private message server. If you later change your phone, we need to be sure you indeed changed your phone and not someone else pretending to be you with a new phone. We will alert the owner of the private message server that someone tries to continue the conversation with a new phone, and it is up to the owner of the private message server how to deal with this. Probably he is going to want a confirmation from you that you indeed changed your phone and/or wants some proof that you really are who you say you are.
Why can I no longer read back my old messages after I replaced my phone?
This is a safety measure. If someone somehow succeeds in pretending to be you with a new phone, and tricks the owner of the PMS to grant permission to use a new phone, he will still not be able to read the already existing conversation. Of course he could now communicate with the owner of the PMS pretending to be you, but he will probaby quickly expose himself by doing so, and of course if you try to connect to the PMS with your own phone the owner of the PMS will yet again receive an alert that you again replaced your phone. Only one device can be used to retrieve messages, so the owner of the PMS will receive an alert with every alternate connection attempt. So it will become quickly obvious that something is not right.
Why can only one of my devices receive messages from a private message server?
The private message server needs to be sure it delivers the message to the intended recipient, and not to anyone pretending to be you. Therefor, during the first contact, a secret code is set up between your device and the private message server. If we would allow you to use multiple devices, for a hacker it would be possible to forge an additional device and listen in into the conversation. By limiting the recipient to only one device and to request permission of the PMS owner for a device swap, someone trying to connect with a new device will quickly expose himself, especially when you continue to connect to the PMS as well. Only one device can be used to retrieve messages, so the owner of the PMS will receive an alert with every alternate connection attempt. So it will become quickly obvious that something is not right.
What happens if e-locals gets compromised?
If e-locals is compromised by a third party, there is nothing in our system that can help that third party to access the messages in a PMS. We have never seen the messages it contains, nor do we have the secret code to retrieve the messages. Via our system one could forge the addition of a new phone device, but the owner of the PMS still has to grant permission to the new phone device to continue the conversation, which probably comes as a surprise to him. The existing conversation can not be read by a new phone anyway since a new phone can only read the new messages.
What happens if your phone gets lost or stolen?
Well, this is bad if you didn't secure your phone thoroughly by using a login code. Your phone possibly has traces of the conversation in its memory. Via our webinterface you can setup a trap so the Locals app will destroy its data as soon as it connects to our system, but of course a knowledgable thief could disable the app and investigate the data which is still around. Guarding your phone is beyond our control.
What happens if your PMS gets broken or lost and you don't have a backup?
You will loose any (unread) messages it contains, but with a recent backup the damage would be minimal. If you don't have a backup: Best course of action would be to set up a new PMS. Since the new PMS has no idea about the history, it will treat everyone as an initial contact and set up new secret codes with anyone connecting to it. Which is not really bad, as there are no messages on the PMS to be revealed anyway. You are starting all over again with a clean system. Once everyone has obtained new secret codes, which will happen automatically, all future message exchanges are again tied to the specific phones of their respective recipients. It would be wise to contact the recipients and see if they indeed receive new messages and that they are who they pretend they are.
What happens if your PMS gets stolen or confiscated by a knowledgable party?
This is bad. Really bad. Your PMS contains all the messages and there is nothing we can do about that. Any encryption mechanism would fail sooner or later. The messages need to be kept somewhere, and you have choosen to keep them on a PMS in your own control. This means it is your responsibility to make sure your PMS is secure, which should be relatively easy as the PMS is small and doesn't need to be in an obvious place, it even doesn't has to be in your house. And of course, who said you have a PMS?
I've lost access to my PMS and there is an important message I need to retrieve. Can you help me?
Sorry! Messages have been sent directly by the sender to your PMS, so we have never received the messages in our system and thus we can't have a copy. Nor have we been involved with setting up the secret code between your recipients and your PMS. There is really nothing we can do for you.
Why is there no mechanism to secure the messages on the phone, like self destructing messages, preventing the user to make screen shots, etc.?
This would be false security. If we would prevent screen shots, the user would still be able to use a separate camera to make a picture of the message. What would be the difference? The same applies to self destructing messages. Although it sounds like a James Bond feature, a user has a dozen ways to make a copy of a message before it would “self destruct”. And last but not least, how much security do you expect on a phone controlled by a manufacturer who has no real interest in guarding your privacy? Once a message has been on your phone, there could be traces of it anywhere in its system.
I would like to switch from the e-locals message server to a PMS, or vice versa. Is that possible?
Absolutely! Just change the setting in the configuration. Just be aware that by changing between message servers, you will loose the old messages.
What happens when my PMS becomes offline due to a network problem, power outage or other technical problems?
Obviously you can't retrieve and send email from it during the time it is offline. Users who send a message to you will not succeed so the message will stay in their message queue and delivery attempts will be carried out regularly. If the PMS becomes accessible again within 24 hours, nothing will be lost. After 24 hours, the message will become “undeliverable” which is indicated to the sender.
How do I get a PMS?
There are three ways to get a PMS:
- Buy a plug and play PMS server (based on a small Raspberry Pi) from us.
- Go to our download section and download the instructions and open source program code to setup your own PMS.
- Go to our download section and download our open source API information and write a program yourself.