worldwide, causing a large efflux out of the app similar instant messaging platforms like Signal and Telegram.
Last week, WhatsApp informed users of its new terms of service which stated that their data would be shared with its parent company Facebook as well as with business accounts on WhatsApp that a user chooses to interact with.
The policy says;
As part of the Facebook family of companies, WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, this family of companies. We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support and market our services and their offerings.
Users reaction to the move on social media was swift and adverse, with many encouraging others to boycott the chat service and also offering up or discussing alternatives like Signal and Telegram.
Many expressed worry about how the messaging platform would henceforth use and share their data, that was once promised to be encrypted and private.
Spotlight beamed on Signal on Thursday after Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, who doubles as the world’s richest man, recommended it for people.
Read Also: Tesla CEO, Elon Musk Overtakes Amazon’s Jeff Bezos To Become World’s Richest Person
“Use Signal,” he wrote in a Twitter post, which has garnered nearly 50,000 retweets, 15,000 comments and over 310,000 likes, as at the time this report was filed.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 7, 2021
The post elicited more reactions and pulled weight when Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, shared it and thereafter reiterated his support for the app in a follow-up post.
— jack (@jack) January 10, 2021
The app saw a surge in downloads after WhatsApp’s infamous terms of service started showing up on people’s notifications. The large influx into Signal even caused the app’s servers to temporarily crash.
Shortly after Musk’s endorsement, Signal tweeted that it was working to handle the surge of new users.
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
Some people have already started ditching WhatsApp amid the ensuing drama while Signal has become the go-to-messaging app for privacy-savvy individuals.
In a post on its Twitter page, Signal called out Facebook using ads to be in the top result when people search for Signal.
Facebook is probably more comfortable selling ads than buying them, but they’ll do what they have to do in order to be the top result when some people search for ‘Signal’ in the App Store. P.S. There will never be ads in Signal, because your data belongs in your hands not ours.
Facebook is probably more comfortable selling ads than buying them, but they'll do what they have to do in order to be the top result when some people search for 'Signal' in the App Store.
P.S. There will never be ads in Signal, because your data belongs in your hands not ours. pic.twitter.com/waVPcl4wHe
— Signal (@signalapp) January 10, 2021
While Telegram, which was launched in 2013 with a view to challenging the privacy and encryption inadequacies of WhatsApp, is widely in use by over 400 million users worldwide, Signal, on the other hand, is relatively new to a lot of people.
What is Signal?
It is a messaging app similar to WhatsApp in a lot of ways but places a focus on privacy of users’ data, as its tagline reads; ‘Say Hello to Privacy’.
Developed in 2014 by Signal Foundation and Signal Messenger LLC, Signal has in time past been endorsed by popular American whistleblower, Edward Snowden and former WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton.
The app was created by Moxie Marlinspike, American cryptographer and who is currently the CEO of Signal Messenger while Signal Foundation was created by WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton and Marlinspike.
Acton, who left WhatsApp back in 2017, has put in around $50 million to help with funding Signal.
How does Signal work?
The messenger is an end-to-end encrypted service just like WhatsApp, this means it is a system of communication where only the communicating users can read the messages.
Users send send messages, make audio and video calls with their friends individually or in group, share photos, videos and links, similar to how other messaging apps work.
You can create a group, but its limited to 150 members. If you do create a group, unlike WhatsApp, everyone is not automatically added to the group. Users can only join a group if an invite forwarded to them is accepted.
One of the standout features for Signal is a disappearing messages option. You can set disappearing messages on for each individual chat and choose the time ranging from 5 seconds to one week.
Also, when it comes to privacy it’s hard to beat Signal’s offer. It doesn’t store your user data. And beyond its encryption prowess, it gives you extended, onscreen privacy options, including app-specific locks, blank notification pop-ups and face-blurring anti-surveillance tools.
The developers of the app introduced the face-blurring anti-surveillance option in June 2020 and it aimed at protecting the identities of Black Lives Matters protesters following the brutal killing of George Floyd by a White police officer.
While in the app’s image editor, users can tap on the new blur icon at the top of the screen and the tool will automatically detect and blur the faces in the picture. The tool also gives the option to manually blur out other areas of the image such as tattoos, logos, street signs and badges.
Due to its privacy terms, you can’t backup your chats on Google Drive or iCloud like on WhatsApp. So if you lose access to your old phone, and set up Signal once again on a new device, all previous chats will be gone.
Signal says all messages, pictures, files, and other contents are stored locally on your device. If you have your old device, you can transfer the data, but if you lost your phone or cleared the data on your phone, or changed your number, then chats cannot be restored.
What are some of the privacy features on Signal?
Signal has a number of privacy-focused features, which includes an option of ‘Relay Calls’, where the calls go through a Signal server to avoid revealing your IP address to your contact. However, enabling this does reduce call quality, according to Signal, and might not be necessary for everyone.
It also offers the option to turn on or off Read Receipts, where someone can see when you have read their messages. It also gives an option to turn on or off typing indicators to show when a message is being typed.
There is no feature like Status as seen on WhatsApp, which can show when you are online – it may be introduced later on or not.
There’s also a security PIN you can set up to keep your account safe. One can set PIN reminders to ensure that Signal keeps asking you for the same. However, this PIN can’t be recovered if you forget it, though Signal does let you change it from the setting. If you forget the PIN though, you might lose access to your account.
Furthermore, Signal has a Screen Lock feature, where you can rely on Touch ID, FaceID or your device’s passcode to access the app. Interestingly, incoming calls and message notifications can be answered even if the Screen Lock is enabled.
Signal available for download on iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows, Mac and Linux.
Meanwhile, despite widespread criticism on social media, WhatsApp’s download numbers stay ahead of Telegram and Signal.
According to data from Sensor Tower, more than 100,000 users installed Signal across the app stores of Apple and Google on Thursday and Friday, while Telegram picked up nearly 2.2 million downloads.
WhatsApp, on the other hand, generated 768,000 downloads on those two days. However, new installs of WhatsApp fell 11% in the first seven days of 2021 compared with the prior week, but that still amounted to an estimated 10.5 million downloads globally, Sensor Tower said.
Signal’s exact user base is unknown, but the app has over 10 million downloads on Android worldwide.
It is currently unclear how many users have left WhatsApp since the announcement of the new terms of service.
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