It’s hard to remember what life was like before modern messaging apps came onto the scene a little over a decade ago. Since their rise alongside the smartphone, they’ve quickly become a primary way people communicate with friends and family. It’s no surprise that such apps usually hold the crown of the most popular apps on Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store.
And messaging apps are big business. The world’s top two messaging apps have over a quarter of the people on the planet using them. WhatsApp has 1.5 billion users worldwide, and Facebook Messenger comes in a close second at 1.3 billion users worldwide. Both of those apps are owned by Facebook. But there are other insanely popular messaging apps used by hundreds of millions or even billions of people on a daily basis, with regional favorites such as China’s WeChat, Korea’s Viber, and Japan’s Line.
It is very dangerous to rely on Facebook with personal data. Yet, well over a billion people choose to send their most intimate messages over apps made by the company. And while Facebook says it can’t access messages sent over WhatsApp and doesn’t have access to messages sent via Facebook Messenger, the company does mine your usage of those apps for other data, like how often you talk to someone and whose phone numbers you have stored in your smartphone’s address book.
Facebook doesn’t allow outside privacy and security researchers to inspect its data collection processes, nor the code of its messaging apps. That means we just need to take the company at its word that it’s being responsible for our communications. And studies show that most people are unwilling to make that leap of faith.
WHY SHOULD WE OPT SIGNAL?
Signal is the only major messenger that runs on multiple platforms (iOS, Android, desktop) and steers clear of tracking you and your connections to other people. All the other cross-platform apps track you. And while Apple’s Messages doesn’t, it’s only available on iOS and MacOS devices. Android and Windows users are out of luck.
As you may have heard, Edward Snowden also recommended Signal. That fact alone usually makes people realize just how secure the app is. All messages are end-to-end encrypted. “But so what?” you might say. Other messaging apps use encryption. The major messaging apps that use encryption are Apple’s Messages and Facebook’s WhatsApp (which is built on Signal’s encryption, though Facebook mines other metadata about its users). However, Facebook Messenger does not encrypt its messages by default, nor do messaging apps made by Google, such as its Hangouts app.
But Signal does more than just encrypt your messages. It also hides virtually all of the metadata.That means only the person who the message is being sent to can see who sent it to them. Signal has no way of telling who is sending you other Signal messages, nor does anyone else who intercepts a Signal message in transit. This is pretty much the most security you could ask for in a messaging app. And only Signal offers it.
So it’s time to say bid farewell to whatsapp and time to switch to other messaging apps.
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