Whatsapp’s updated privacy policies have caused an enormous outrage on the internet, which seems to be benefitting its rivals by heaps.
An app that has recently seen an extreme surge in downloads is Signal. It was previously popular with just about anyone concerned about their privacy, but now even the non-tech savvy seem to be jumping on board.
In this article, we will talk about Signal, what makes it so safe, who owns it, is it better than Whatsapp and whether you should switch to it or not.
What is Signal?
Signal is a free, encrypted messaging app that lets you send messages, photos, videos, voice notes, links and just about everything with your friends. You can even make individual or group voice and video calls, all of which are encrypted. Users can also make groups of up to 150 people.
The app uses end-to-end encryption for all its communication which means no one else can read the chat data except the participants, not Signal’s developers.
The app does have a few features that make it stand above the competition. Users can react to messages, much like Discord or Slack. It is available for Android, iOS, Windows, macOS and Linux (Debian-based distros).
Also read: How to install and use Signal on a desktop?
Is Signal safe?
Signal is by far one of the most secure messaging apps that you can use right now. The app has long been used, loved and recommended by the cybersecurity community and Edward Snowden and even Elon Musk.
There is two-factor authentication support, and users can lock the app using their phone’s biometric lock or using a PIN. Then there’s the famed focus on privacy that Signal has. The app has end-to-end encryption baked in and used for just about all of its features, making it extremely hard for any third party to spy on your communications.
Signal was the first to implement the security Protocol to keep its user’s conversations private. In November 2014, Moxie’s Open Whisper Systems partnered with Whatsapp to integrate the Signal Protocol into the Facebook-owned messaging app, making it fully end=to-end encrypted by April 2016. They also partnered with Google to provide the Signal Protocol for Allo in May 2016. Two months later, in July 2016, Facebook Messenger rolled out Secret Conversations — e2e chats — that leveraged the Signal Protocol. In January 2018, Signal Protocol was integrated into Microsoft’s Skype too.
The source code for the app is open-source and peer-reviewed. This means that over the years, cybersecurity specialists or just about everyone has been able to take a look at it, play around and contribute to making the app more secure.
However, while the user experience and general usage are relatively good, it does have a few weak points. For example, if you’re switching phones, the process of backing up your chats and having them on your new device isn’t as easy as you might expect especially if you’re coming from something like Whatsapp.
Also read: How to block someone on Signal?
Who owns Signal?
Moxie Marlinspike, an American Cryptographer, developed Signal in 2015, under Open Whisper Systems’ umbrella. Signal has partnered with many popular messaging and social platforms to integrate encryption via its Signal Protocol since then.
In February 2018, the app was transferred to the Signal Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit company based in California, USA. The non-profit is supported by Brian Acton, co-founder of Whatsapp, who helped create the foundation a year after he left Facebook and Whatsapp. In addition to the $50 million funding received by the Signal Foundation at the time of this announcement, they are also being supported financially by Freedom of Press Foundation.
Also read: How to unblock someone on Signal?
Is Signal better than Whatsapp?
In terms of the number of features and ease of use, maybe not. In terms of security and privacy? Definitely yes.
While Whatsapp and Signal both use end-to-end encryption, as mentioned above, Signal was the first to implement the security protocol to keep its user’s conversations private. Its USP is security and privacy; hence, the entire app and its user experience are built around a central focus on privacy and security. It has extended to several other popular apps via its Signal Protocol.
So, if you think Signal is safer than Whatsapp as far as your security and privacy are concerned, then well it certainly is because without its encryption protocols, Whatsapp, Messenger, Skype or the now-defunct Allo, among others, won’t be able to provide the same level of end-to-end encryption to its users.
Should you use Signal?
Absolutely yes. Its a great app and with the sudden and massive influx of new users, it’s only going to get better in the future.
However, the real answer to this question is going to be decided by your social circle. Eventually, you’re going to have to use an app where most of your social circle is, whether that’s Whatsapp, Signal or even Telegram.
We highly recommend that you switch to Signal. Corporations worldwide should respect data privacy. With more and more users starting to become aware of the invasive usage policies, major social media networks have the best time to switch to something that’s actually safe.
Someone who writes/edits/shoots/hosts all things tech and when he’s not, streams himself racing virtual cars. You can reach out to Yadullah at [email protected], or follow him on Instagram or Twitter.