new terms | 

Whatsapp privacy changes sees huge shift in Irish users to Signal

Evan Finlay

WhatsApp’s claim to be Ireland’s “most popular” messaging app could be about to change thanks to the updated privacy terms that the Facebook-owned company has put forward.

The new Zuckerberg-approved terms will allow Facebook to access account information like your phone number, how long you spend on WhatsApp as well as how you interact with others through the app.

Other information like device identifiers and IP addresses can also be retrieved by Facebook when the update comes into play on February 8.

Facebook has said that these changes will only affect non-EU users, which now obviously includes the UK.

So, any of your friends and family who rely on WhatsApp to keep up with the goings on at home will soon be threatened by the new privacy rules.

Nevertheless, these new policy changes have led some high-profile tech experts to suggest ridding of WhatsApp from your phone altogether.

One app that is getting a lot of traction is Signal. At one point its servers went down due to the number of new unique downloads.

It can be downloaded through all major app stores and has been backed by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and American whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

Its features are fairly similar to WhatsApp in that users will get secure messaging and video calls with end-to-end encryption.

You can create groups with up to 150 members, though there is currently no option to broadcast messages to multiple contacts at once.

Unlike WhatsApp, users must accept an invite to join a group, which is a little less awkward than being dumped into a group full of people you don’t know.

One of its neater features takes a leaf out of Snapchat’s book. Users can set up disappearing which means chats will be deleted after however long you choose.

Not only does it do the job WhatsApp does, it only requires your phone number instead of a bucket load of information to sign up and use the service.

WhatsApp even uses Signal for its security protocols which means it should be as secure, if not more so.

It remains to be seen whether EU users will be affected sometime in the future but it’s certainly something to keep an eye out for, especially for those with friends and family living outside the EU.

Whether you’re going to part with WhatsApp and move to Signal or not, the world of messaging apps hasn’t seen this level of migration since the days of Viber and Skype.

What is Signal?

Signal is an encrypted app that lets you send messages and make calls via the Internet. Signal’s unique selling point is its focus on privacy. It supports group chats and group video calls too. Signal is open source and its code is peer-reviewed, which means that its privacy and security is regularly checked by independent experts.

Who owns it?

Signal was created by Moxie Marlinspike, an American cryptographer. The app as we know it today is developed by the Signal Foundation and Signal Messenger. Signal Foundation was founded on January 10, 2018, and a former co-founder of WhatsApp, Brian Acton, made an initial funding of $50m.

Is it really safe?

Signal is one of the most secure messaging apps that you can use right now. Apart from CEOs like Elon Musk, the famous whistleblower Edward Snowden also recommends Signal. It's end-to-end encryption is so trusted that WhatsApp also adopted the same, and it is used for pretty much all of its features, which means that it's extremely difficult for others to spy on your conversations. You can also enable additional security features such as requiring a second password to log in to Signal on new devices.

Where do you get Signal?

The Signal app is available on Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and Linux, although you can only sign up via Android or iPhone. Once you have set up an account, you can link Signal to your iPad or your computer and use the app even if your phone is switched off.

What’s the catch?

There is no denying that in terms of privacy features, Signal is better than WhatsApp. However, if you care about app features and who is using the messaging app, then WhatsApp is ahead. The most important part of any messaging app are the people who use it. If your entire social circle is on WhatsApp, then no amount of features can make Signal more appealing.

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