In a bid to understand the options and their safety prospects, we need to visit their roots and origins.
Many might remember Cambridge Analytica, created by Christopher Wylie, which data mined content from US based Facebook users. When the onslaught came against this, one of Facebook’s naysayers was Brian Acton, who tweeted ‘It is time. #deletefacebook.’ Brian Acton is, however, better known as the man who created WhatsApp, which is now ironically owned by Facebook.
After the WhatsApp sale went through, he was under pressure from Facebook to monetize it, and later opened up about the encryption he helped build, and how he laid groundwork to show targeted ads.
He later left and moved on from Facebook after his and Mark Zuckerburg’s ideologies didn’t match. This tussle has come a long way since then, leading to WhatsApp following the footsteps of Facebook, a company that derived 98% of its revenue from advertising.
Signal is the newer messaging app based on a free and open-source software, from non-profit Signal Foundation which was launched in February 2018. The initial funding it received was USD50 million, from, (you guessed it right!) WhatsApp founder Brian Acton. It is a successor of RedPhone encrypted service by Whisper Systems, a startup co-founded by Twitter’s ex head of security Moxie Marlinspike.
Under new policies, WhatsApp will reserve users’ right to share data like phone number, IP address and payments made via Facebook, Instagram and other Facebook-owned platforms.
It also states that if people use WhatsApp to connect with businesses like Facebook’s hosting technology to manage those chats, such messages can also be used by businesses to target people with ads on Facebook. The update is also being forced down people’s throats, as it comes with a warning stating that if users don’t agree with the new terms coming into effect on 8 February 2021, users will be barred from accessing WhatsApp.
Amid the uproar, many people are trying to understand the value of data privacy, and dangers of data piracy, and are gaining awareness. Though this is a great thought, but many still blindly follow trends, which has proven unprecedented in this case. Additionally, tech stars like Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and US whistleblower Edward Snowden have endorsed Signal on social .
This has led to Signal’s downloads rising off the charts, with an unbelievable 4,200% increase in a week.
WhatsApp’s chats are supposedly secure due to its encryption, but opinions differ as many believe that the encryption doesn’t apply to Facebook, and the chat backups are not local, but third-party, and also unencrypted. Also, it is important to note, there are some cases when the chats can be used by Facebook, namely, chats with WhatsApp business accounts. The data from such chats can be mined by Facebook for targeted ads.
The data piracy related concerns come in on other WhatsApp data, such as your stories, payment information, usage data, IP addresses, mobile networks, time spent on the app, location and cookies.
Signal uses the open-source Signal Protocol to implement end-to-end encryption, and encrypts messages and all local files by default, using a 4-digit passphrase. Signal app for Android and iOS is being touted as an alternative for WhatsApp, with encrypted metadata, and it offers a ‘Sealed Sender’ feature which disables ability to figure out senders and receivers of any given messages.
The sealed messages also hide IP addresses from non-contacts with whom a user’s profile is not shared. Coming to backups, they are locally stored, and encrypted as well.
Signal also doesn’t store any metadata, logs, or information on its users. This information (which is not stored by Signal) also includes contacts, conversations, locations, profile name, avatar, group memberships, or group titles.
Only data that Signal stores is users’ phone numbers, which are not linked to users’ identities. Other things that differ from WhatsApp are online or offline status of users, and data of stories shared by users, and the option of secret chats, and the way data is stored on servers, which offers safety from viruses, etc.
In the end, the long and short of it, is that each application offers similar things in varied approaches, focusing on different points of interest. It all comes down to the user’s choice, which can factor in their usage patterns, usage requirements, and choice of features.
One common link between both apps, Brian Acton, has already said on the new changes, that Signal will not replace WhatsApp, instead, people will use both messengers for different conversations.
Hence, all users are always urged to read the terms of any service they wish to use, and if they are fine with the terms, they should proceed, or if not, they can choose to look for other alternatives.
Follow AlShorts, short news in 30 seconds to keep yourself informed about further updates. AlShorts provide short and crisp news and blog from across the globe.