Signal , the new WhatsApp in town – Updated privacy policies causes a stir

It was about yesterday night I just happened to check WhatsApp, found a new pop up on my screen that read new privacy policy. Since facebook’s integration with other platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram, data privacy has pretty much gone for a toss. After the Cambridge Analytica incident, and the congress meeting with Mark Zuckerberg, went on to prove that the information stored by facebook was also being outsourced and shared outside the realms of the agreement. Now the privacy policy has hit WhatsApp.

The app policy changes has caused a lot of stir as it covers certain modifications around data sharing that it might be collaborated with facebook now, which means a massive platform for data collection is being created. 

Source: Reference

From February 8th 2021, the agreement to the policies will be mandatory and choosing not to do so, one won’t be able to use the app. It reminded me of one of the proverb ‘it’s either my way or the highway”, I guess thats kind of becoming a last resort. Some of the information which is going to be collected by WhatsApp includes the network details including the operator, signal strength, the browser information, language, time zone, IP address and some of the device information and operations. The policy can be read here.

These changes were introduced sometime back in July 2020 with the option permitting to withhold personal information from being shared to Facebook. When it came to discussing what sort of information or data is facebook making use of, the policy states that the shared data is used for understanding how the existing services and offerings can be improved, making suggestions for the use and personalizing features and content. The motive behind the updated policies is to bridge the flow of information from WhatsApp to facebook and creating streams of data. 

As soon as the policy update started hitting the news, Elon Musk took to twitter “Use Signal”. The message was loud and clear that Musk wanted users to switch to an alternative messaging platform called ‘Signal’. To a lot of users out there, Signal is an app which was co-founded by Brian Acton,  former co-developer of WhatsApp. Brian Acton has harshly criticized Facebook’s approach to privacy and revealed that “Facebook coached him to explain that it would be really difficult to merge or blend data between WhatsApp and facebook when giving information to EU regulators. 

I was introduced to the app back in 2018 and since then I have been pretty much happy with the security and data privacy offered by the app. It has various features of which the highlight is the disappearing messages and also the absence of activity of any user, being online or offline

Some of the reasons including the above mentioned that drove me to make a switch to signal are as follows:

  • Regular updates and secured app, disappearing messages being of them
  • Though the app lacks an option to export a chat, in a way it goes on to show there is no back up of the existing data on cloud or any back end server
  • It is an open source app. It is available for both play store and App Store and desktop version as well.
  • The most important factor, was the historic record of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica with the data collection and handling along with its practices of sharing data about users with phone manufacturers. 

Though, there are other apps like Wickr and Telegram which are decently rated apps, signal has been around for some time and the data privacy has proven to be much better than existing messaging platforms. Since the policy update and the tweet from Elon Musk, a surge in the number of users switching to Signal is visible. This even created a delay in the phone numbers being verified as the authentication was getting clogged due to the high number of user sign-ups. Furthermore, Edward Snowden also ended retweeting “that’s signalapp, for those who don’t speak Elon.”  It seems that even though facebook has been criticized several times for its stance on data privacy, the social media giant is in no position to back out anytime soon. 

Published by The Art of Cyber-Space

I am a security professional specializing in network security. With vivid experience in different industries, I am looking to explore the current cyberspace and discuss the ideology of certain ideas from a different perspective.

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