On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, most of the social media users woke up to an in-app notification from WhatsApp informing them about platform’s updated policies (terms of service and privacy). The new updated policies have been made mandatory to accept if you want to continue using the app. This sudden change in WhatsApp policies not only invited a lot of backlash on social media but many users were also worried as there didn’t seem to be many options for people who wanted to stop using WhatsApp and wished to switch to another platform. Here’s what happened.
Ever since users started receiving the WhatsApp notification, a new messaging service app called Signal has been going viral on the internet. According to its official website, Signal is a cross-platform encrypted messaging service developed by the Signal Foundation and Signal Messenger LLC. Like WhatsApp, the Signal app uses the Internet to send one-to-one and group messages, which can include files, voice notes, images and videos. It can also be used to make one-to-one and group voice and video calls. The android version of this app can optionally function as an SMS app.
For all those who are wondering whether this brand new app is free? Yes, the Signal app is in fact free. It is actually, an open-source software application for Android, iOS, and Desktop that employs end-to-end encryption.
A lot of people have been asking how to move their group chats from other apps to Signal, and Signal group links are a great way to get started. Drop a group link into your former chat app of choice like you're dropping the mic on the way out. pic.twitter.com/q49DeZufBG— Signal (@signalapp) January 7, 2021
Since the past two days, netizens on Twitter have been talking about the Signal app. In addition to this, the tech billionaire Elon Musk himself tweeted saying, ‘Use Signal’ to his followers, deeming that WhatsApp was no longer safe. On Twitter, there have been general beliefs and claims that Signal is more secure than WhatsApp but Apple’s new privacy labels give a clear picture of the same. Moreover, WhatsApp is no more an independent platform. It is owned by Facebook. Hence, Signal is being considered as a WhatsApp alternative.
Use Signal— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 7, 2021
According to a report in Business Insider, the data collected by WhatsApp includes Phone Number, Email Address, Contacts, Coarse Location, Device ID, User ID, Advertising Data, Purchase History, Product Interaction, Payment Info, Crash Data, Performance Data, Other Diagnostic Data, Customer Support, Product Interaction, Other User, Content, Metadata. This is significantly more than what is being asked by other alternative apps. On the contrary, at the moment Signal is not asking for anything. The platform only requires the user’s phone number for registration but doesn’t link it directly to their identity.
If one would check the app on the App Store it states that there is no data linked to you. However, another major difference between the two platforms is that Signal is open source, which WhatsApp is not. The report reveals that an open-source software is a type of computer software in which source code is released under a license. Under this license, the copyright holder grants users the rights to use, study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. Hence many a time open-source software may be developed in a collaborative public manner.