Privacy-focused messaging apps – Are users switching rather than sharing?

Both Signal and Telegram saw millions of installs globally in early January after an announcement from Tesla CEO, Elon Musk urged his Twitter followers to “use Signal” as an alternative to Facebook-owned WhatsApp over concerns about changes to the service’s privacy policy.

The surge in downloads of these two apps comes after WhatsApp released an update to its privacy policy on Jan. 4, advising users that data would be shared with Facebook and starting Feb. 8, users will be prompted in the app to accept the updated terms in order to continue using WhatsApp service.  This is not new to users as WhatsApp has shared certain data with Facebook as it has been happening since 2016.  However, the difference is that users previously had a chance to opt out of this.

WhatsApp alternative Signal claims to have “state-of-the-art end-to-end encryption” as part of its service, which prevents messages from being read by those who are not the intended recipient protecting the data of its users.

The surge in downloads of these two apps comes after WhatsApp released an update to its privacy policy on Jan. 4. Since 2016, WhatsApp has shared certain data with Facebook. But users previously had a chance to opt out of this.

For the record, WhatsApp messages are also encrypted, in that Facebook will not be able to see the actual contents for the shared message however, the app collects a lot of other data, such as account registration information, like your phone number, transaction data, service-related information, information on how you interact with others, including businesses when using the service, and mobile device information which all can be shared with its parent company, Facebook.

In response to users concerns WhatsApp advised the update will not affect the privacy of messages sent to friends and family. Clarifying that the update will only include “changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.”

WhatsApp also communicated that any data shared with Facebook is used to help improve infrastructure, promote safety and security and refine services by making suggestions or personalizing features and content. This could also include integration between Facebook-branded products and WhatsApp.

Despite the surge in Signal and Telegram downloads, it seems for the time being that WhatsApp has not seen a decline in usage as most of those who are downloading and using Signal or Telegram will continue to use WhatsApp as that is where most of current contacts are.  However, as both of these new messaging platforms gain popularity users may decide to switch rather than share.

by Calli Gregg