Is it time to quit WhatsApp – and is Signal the answer? | WhatsApp
WhatsApp quickly released a clarification, explaining that the new policy only affects how user accounts interact with businesses (i.e. not with their friends) and does not impose any new data collection. The messaging app also delayed the introduction of the policy for three months. Crucially, WhatsApp said, the new policy does not affect the content of your chats, which remain protected by end-to-end encryption – the “gold standard” for security that means no one can view the message content, even WhatsApp, Facebook, or the authorities.
But the damage was already done. Failed communication attempts have raised awareness that WhatsApp collects a lot of data, and some of it could be shared with Facebook. BBC reported that Signal was downloaded 246,000 times worldwide in the week before WhatsApp announced the change on January 4, and 8.8 million times the following week.
WhatsApp shares some data with Facebook, including phone numbers and profile name, but it’s been happening for years. WhatsApp said that in the UK and EU the update does not share other data with Facebook – due to strict privacy regulations known as general update of the Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The messaging app doesn’t collect the content of your chats, but it does collect metadata attached to them, such as the sender, the time a message was sent, and who it was sent to. This can be shared with “Facebook companies”.
Facebook is heavily criticized ethics of data collection eroded trust in the social network. Its practices can put vulnerable people at risk, says Emily Overton, data protection expert and CEO of RMGirl. She cites the example of Facebook’s “people you may know” algorithm exposing the real names of sex workers to their clients – despite the fact that both parties take care to create false identities. “The more data they profile, the more they put people in vulnerable situations at risk.”
And the social network is not known to keep its promises. When Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014, he made a commitment to separate the two services. However, a few years later, Facebook announced its intention to integrate the messaging systems of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. It seems to have stagnated due to technical and regulatory challenges with encryption, but that’s still the long-term plan.
Why do people choose Signal over Telegram?
Signal, a secure messaging application recommended by authorities such as Electronic Frontier Foundation and Edward snowden, was the main beneficiary of the WhatsApp exodus. Another messaging app, Telegram, has also seen an increase in downloads, but Signal tops the charts on the Apple and Android app stores.
Signal benefits from being the most similar to WhatsApp in terms of functionality, while Telegram has had issues as a secure and private messaging app, with its live location feature recently. Under fire for invasion of privacy. Basically, Telegram is not end-to-end encrypted by default, but stores your data in the cloud. Signal is end-to-end encrypted, collects less data than Telegram, and stores messages on your device rather than in the cloud.
Does Signal have all the features I’m used to and why is it more private?
Yes, Signal has most of the features that you are used to on WhatsApp, such as stickers and emojis. You can set up and name groups, and it’s easy to send a message – just display the stylus sign in the right corner.
Signal has a desktop app and you can video and audio chat with up to eight people. Like WhatsApp, Signal uses your phone number as an identity, which has worried some privacy and security advocates. However, the company has introduced PIN codes in hopes of moving to a more secure and private way of identifying users in the future.
In addition to being end-to-end encrypted, WhatsApp and Signal both have a “disappearing messages” feature for added privacy. The main difference is how each application is funded. WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, whose business model is based on advertising. Signal is all about privacy and has no desire to analyze, share or profit from users’ private information, says Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at ESET.
Signal is supported by the nonprofit Signal Foundation, established in 2018 by WhatsApp founder Brian Acton and security researcher (and CEO of Signal Messenger) Moxie Marlinspike, which created an encryption protocol used by several services. messaging including WhatsApp and Skype as well as Signal itself. Acton, who left Facebook in 2017 after expressing concerns about the company’s functioning, has made an initial donation of $ 50 million to Signal and the open-source app is now funded by the community. Essentially, this means that developers around the world will continually work on it and resolve security issues as a collaborative effort, arguably making the app more secure.
But there are concerns over whether Signal can keep this model free as its user base grows to tens, or potentially hundreds of millions in the future. Signal is adamant it can continue to offer its service for free. “As a nonprofit, we just need to break even,” says Aruna Harder, COO of the app.
Signal is supported exclusively by grants and donations, Acton says. “We believe millions of people value privacy enough to preserve it, and we’re here to demonstrate that there is an alternative to advertising-based business models that exploit user privacy.”
I want to switch to Signal. How to persuade WhatsApp groups to change?
The momentum away from WhatsApp seems to be building, and you might find that more of your friends have already switched to Signal. But persuading a larger contact group can be more difficult.
Overton has been using Signal for several years and says all of their regular contacts use the app. “Even when I’m dating online, I ask the person I want to go on a date with to download Signal, otherwise they won’t receive my number.”
Some Signal advocates have already started migrating their groups from WhatsApp. Jim Creese, a security expert, moves a neighborhood texting group of 100 people to Signal. It starts with a small subgroup of 20 people, some of whom struggle with technology. Creese says most are ambivalent about the change “as long as the new method isn’t harder.”
He advises anyone moving groups between applications to focus on the “why” first. “Explain the reasons for the change, how it is likely to affect them and the benefits. Don’t rush the process. While WhatsApp might not be where you want it to be today, there is no emergency that requires an immediate move. “
Moore believes the WhatsApp abandonment will continue to gain momentum, but he says it will take time to get everyone going. Until then, it is likely that you will need to keep both WhatsApp and Signal on your phone.
Moore is moving a family cat to Signal, for the second time. “When I first tried it, a family member didn’t understand my concerns and thought I was being too careful.
“However, the latest news has helped him understand the potential issues and why moving isn’t such a bad idea. The next hurdle will be getting my mom to download a new app and use it for the first time without me physically helping her.