Signal has been a hot topic on social media in the past week following changes to WhatsApp’s privacy policies.
New rules introduced by WhatsApp will see the messaging app share an expanded array of data with parent company, Facebook.
The announcement sparked consternation among privacy advocates the world over and raised concerns over just how much data will be scoured.
In the wake of the updates, encrypted messaging app Signal has surged in popularity. According to statistics from Sensor Tower, downloads of the app increased by 4200% between the 6th and 10th of January. This equates to several million downloads globally.
Signal has also gained a host of high-profile supporters, including SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk.
Musk took to social media on 7th January and urged his followers to download Signal as an alternative to WhatsApp. The post was then retweeted by Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 7, 2021
For Signal, this new-found popularity has been a blessing and a curse. While its share prices skyrocketed, the company encountered huge difficulties amid a huge influx of new users.
Signal warned newcomers of the issues, which are now believed to be resolved.
Verification codes are currently delayed across several providers because so many new people are trying to join Signal right now (we can barely register our excitement). We are working with carriers to resolve this as quickly as possible. Hang in there.
— Signal (@signalapp) January 7, 2021
The secure messaging app isn’t exactly the new kid on the block, however, and has been around for several years; commanding a loyal and sizeable user-base.
So, what is it that makes Signal the perfect alternative to WhatsApp?
Your data, your choice
Facebook has had a difficult few years in regards to data privacy. Although WhatsApp has generally avoided the same level of controversy as its parent company, the recent privacy updates appear to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
WhatsApp already collects a significant chunk of user data, but many appear willing to skip the matter of data collection for the ease of secure messaging.
The latest changes are not exactly sweeping, either. In fact, they simply expand on what has already being gathered via the app. And while this is concerning, the reality is that millions of users simply will not bat an eyelid.
How to get onto Signal
Getting yourself on Signal is not difficult in the slightest. It can be found and downloaded via all of the conventional app marketplaces, including the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
The open-source messaging app was developed by the Signal Foundation and historically has placed a strong, dedicated focus on privacy. It does not store user data, thus is a popular choice among privacy-conscious users.
Famed NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is known to use the app and has previously sung its praises. If you are looking for a solid endorsement for a messaging platform, then Snowden’s is probably the best you can get.
Virtually all of the features you can find on WhatsApp are available via Signal. Users can send text messages, videos, pictures and audio messages to other users – and all of this is protected via end-to-end encryption.
For more details on how E2E encryption works, check here:
Users are also able to customise an array of features on the app, including ‘disappearing’ messages and anti-surveillance tools which blur a user’s face.
Secure video calls can also be made via Signal. Last month the app also launched a new group call feature.
Commenting at the time, the firm said: “Group calls are free, private, and end-to-end encrypted – like everything else on Signal.”
There’s always an alternative
Amid an era of frequent high-profile data breaches, Signal certainly appears to be a knight in shining armour. In terms of security, however, it has not survived completely unscathed.
Previously, there have been some concerning bugs. But these have been rectified swiftly and have not dissuaded its loyal users from fleeing.
Signal is not the only alternative to WhatsApp available on the market, either. Telegram downloads have also surged alongside Signal in recent days.
For users that still wish to use WhatsApp, the outlook is not as bleak as some may have you believe.
The company took to Twitter over the weekend to clarify a few half-truths circulating on social media and confirmed that users can still enjoy end-to-end encryption.
Furthermore, according to WhatsApp the update “does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family”.