- Signal saw a 4200% increase in user downloads this week as WhatsApp users considered leaving the platform.
- Both Signal and WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted messaging platforms that allow users to communicate via Wi-Fi or mobile data.
- But the two apps vary in the amount of user data they collect, ownership and usability.
- While Signal gives users more privacy, Facebook-owned WhatsApp has customizable features that make it easier to use. Signal is testing a beta version with a few more options.
- Visit the Business Insider website for more stories.
Signal, the first messaging app for privacy, is gaining a reputation as WhatsApp̵
The app saw a 4200% increase in user downloads this week after WhatsApp announced that users had to start giving some data to the parent company Facebook.
The two messaging apps have something in common. Unlike regular SMS messages and others sent over a mobile network, Signal and WhatsApp use end-to-end encryption, which hides messages in case someone intercepted the chat or found them on a server. The two competing apps allow users to chat for free via Wi-Fi networks or mobile data, making them popular for international communication.
But the two apps stand out significantly in terms of ownership, views on security and usability. Signal is owned by a relatively new non-profit organization and places great emphasis on security, while Facebook-operated WhatsApp tends to be easier to use.
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Here is an overview of the major differences between the two encrypted messaging platforms to help you decide which one to use. Facebook and Signal were not immediately available for comment.
Who owns WhatsApp?
The root of some users’ frustration over WhatsApp comes from the company owner.
In 2014, Facebook bought WhatsApp, co-founder of Brian Acton and Jan Koum, for $ 22 billion.
Data breaches have plagued Facebook users for years. Facebook announced a major hack in 2018 that affected 50 million accounts. Facebook employees knew about errors in the platform’s security for user accounts as early as December 2017, according to a Telegraph report.
During the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, Facebook said that as many as 87 million people may have had access to their data.
Koum left Facebook in 2018, and Acton continued to inject $ 50 million of its own money into rival encrypted chat app Signal.
Who owns Signal?
Signal, on the other hand, is run by the non-profit organization Signal Foundation. Acton and Signal CEO Moxie Marlinspike co-founded the Signal Foundation in February 2018.
According to the Signal Foundation’s website, Acton withdrew after Facebook’s acquisition “due to differences in the use of customer data and targeted advertising.” The management donated $ 50 million to start the Signal Foundation, and now sits on the organization’s board.
Signal has never taken VC financing or applied for investment, per Marlinspike.
“The signal project is basically to make the technology normal, make it the way it looks on the surface, where data is not shared with other devices,” Marlinspike told Business Insider in 2020.
Meredith Whittaker is the third board member of the Signal Foundation. She is a former Google engineer who leads the company’s work organization work and now speaks on behalf of technical workers.
How secure is WhatsApp?
Facebook cannot access chats due to end-to-end encryption, but the company can take user data.
Facebook has access to the WhatsApp user’s phone numbers, IP addresses, cellular networks, length of time using messenger, payment data, cookies and location data, according to WIRED.
Some users had opted out of Facebook access in 2016. But WhatsApp said that if all users do not agree to share information by February 8, they will lose access to the app.
Insiders Rob Price reported that remote apps can track WhatsApp users’ online activity, including who they talk to, when they use the app, and even when they sleep.
How Safe is Signal?
Signal says it does not receive user messages, groups, contacts or profile information. The only two pieces of information Signal collects are how long users have had Signal installed and the last date it was installed.
The company also opens all its software, which means that the public can see how the technology was created, inspect the code themselves.
Signal has received a pledge of trust from many security experts, including Edward Snowden. Journalists at Vice and The Intercept recommend using Signal over WhatsApp to ensure that your messages remain private.
—Edward Snowden (@Snowden) November 2, 2015
The messenger is not perfect. Security experts warned that a new feature that allows users to recover data using a PIN includes privacy. “The problem with that is that most people choose weak PINs. To harden this and make the system more secure, Signal has a system that uses Intel SGX enclaves on its server,” Johns Hopkins cryptographer Matthew Green told Vice.
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How easy to use is WhatsApp?
WhatsApp appeals to its more than two billion users with its ease of use and flexibility.
The app is available on both iOS and Android devices, and automatically syncs your phone contact list, since users are identified by their mobile number.
Users can create group chats, make voice and video calls, and make free international calls using Wi-Fi. Users can share their location, documents and files with others. WhatsApp also allows you to add a PIN to configure 2-step verification before accessing the app.
Insider has also reported on tricks WhatsApp users can add to make the experience more seamless. Users can mark messages as unread and attach important messages to the chat, features not available on Signal.
How easy to use is Signal?
Signal has less customizable features than WhatsApp.
The app is available on iOS, Android and desktop. Users can send photos, videos, links and other files to each other. Like WhatsApp, users can set messages and pictures to disappear over time.
Users can set up audio and video calls, as well as form groups of up to 150 people.
However, the beta version of Signal has more to offer users than the standard app. The beta version allows chat rooms that can appoint administrators and send invitations to your group.