Signal App: Aftermath of Whatsapp updated Terms of Services


On January 6, 2021, Whatsapp announced a revision to its former Terms of Service. This isn’t much surprising as such revisions were rolled out earlier as well. But this time, the reception wasn’t that smooth.

What happened?

Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) announced in October 2020, that Facebook (the parent company of Whatsapp) was working towards integrating services of its subsidiaries (Whatsapp, Instagram etc). For this the New Terms of Service have been introduced which in short “Allows Whatsapp User Data to be sent over to Facebook”. This means that privacy of users is impacted. The Company would now know more about individual users, as data would be shared among its services. Businesses on Whatsapp may share information regarding their users. The new TOS will be implemented from February 2021.

What’s the Problem?

Due to the Company owners having more information about the users, this information could be used (or sold) for financial benefit of the company. Such information about the users could be used for targeted advertisements, location-based recommendations, profiling etc. Unified data also poses the risk for Cyber Attacks as a large amount of data would be at stake. And all this is assuming Facebook by itself doesn’t misuse the data, which can’t be assured considering the dubious past of the company.

What if I don’t agree with the terms?

Switching to one of the alternatives of Whatsapp is the best bet. One of the alternatives of Whatsapp named Signal got the good end of this massive outrage towards Whatsapp. The app saw 4 million+ downloads since WhatsApp’s new privacy policy was first revealed, and claimed the top spot of top free apps category of App Store. Reason to it being Open Source and Providing Equivalent Data Protection to Whatsapp, without privacy invasion.

Signal 

Signal is a messaging application available for an array of Operating Systems, namely iOS, Android, Windows, Mac and Debian variants of Linux. Developed by Signal Foundation and Signal Messenger LLC. The application was developed by a co-founder of Whatsapp Brian Acton, and Moxie Marlinspike. A big reason for this much attention towards the app is due to Elon Musk endorsing the application. It is also recommended by Edward Snowden, a renowned American Whistleblower.

Features of Signal App

Some of the features provided by the signal app are:-

  • End-to-End Encryption used for Data Transmission
  • Cross Platform
  • Confidentiality in Calls made by the App
  • Conceals the identity of the Sender and Recipient of a message from public view (Sealed Sender)
  • Encrypts generated Metadata
  • Allows easy migration of data from previous messaging platform.

So, should I transition to Signal?

Well, it depends. Even after the uprise of the Signal app, Whatsapp still boasts the highest traffic of all messaging apps. It is likely that most of the people you contact do use Whatsapp as a messaging application. The real struggle here is to make them move over to signal app, which is easier said than done. After all, ‘What’s the use of migrating to an application which no one uses?’.

Does that mean I am restricted to Whatsapp, even if I disagree with their TOS?

Only time will tell. If the alternatives of the Whatsapp does continue to get widespread adoption, then transitioning over wouldn’t be much of a hassle. This process could be sped up by increasing awareness about the alternatives like Signal, by informing our network of contacts about them.

 

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