WhatsApp’s policy update and other alternatives — Telegram, Signal

A compilation on important points from the web to understand before taking any action.

From web — Business Today

The recent WhatsApp’s privacy update has created a storm questioning the privacy of users data.

So, first let’s understand what is the privacy update and why there is so much of concern expressed all over internet.

The Facebook-owned messenger app said that as part of the policy update, it will share user data with other Facebook companies.

It means it will collect all the user data such as your device id, user id which is your phone number, your location, your contacts, your texts and other visual data, your purchase history and much more.

They might target specific ads based on your data. You might see ads in between stories and worst case in chats as well intruding your privacy.

Facebook has multiple allegations around the company breaking encryption and creating backdoors for government agencies.

You need to accept the new privacy policy before 8th February. You will be forced to accept these after this date. If you choose not to, then you will have to lose access to your WhatsApp. You can choose to delete your account and move to any of its plethora of alternatives.

The above is just an example. The major concern is the ads may be more intrusive in nature and the trust in the company when it comes to users data.

If you are person who is not much concerned about the facebook selling you ads off your personal data, this might not be relevant to you.

If not, let’s explore the alternatives to WhatsApp with the same features with no cost attached to your privacy.

The other market alternatives are Telegram and Elon Musk recommended Signal.

Let’s understand some key features.

End to End Encryption (E2E)

What does this mean?

You and the recipient are the only people who can read the messages you send to them. The messenger can’t decrypt the contents of your messages, calls, photos, etc, thus ensuring your security and privacy.

👉 WhatsApp encrypts your messages, video calls, voice calls. It doesn’t encrypt your cloud and local backups. It also doesn’t encrypt your meta data.

What happens with this?

While metadata does not allow anyone to read your messages, it lets authorities know whom and when you messaged someone, and for how long.

👉 Telegram supports E2E encryption, but it’s not enabled by default. The only way to use E2E encryption on Telegram is to use its secret chats feature.

Messages sent in a secret chat are E2E encrypted, which is nice, but regular chats are not. This means means that the messages are encrypted on your device and then they are decrypted on Telegram’s server. Again, the messages are encrypted on the server and sent to the recipient’s device for final decryption. As you can see, in this process, Telegram has the encryption keys on the server-side and can, in theory, access your normal chats.

For secret chats, it is using its own protocol called MTProto. Let alone telegram knows about the security measures of it.

👉 Signal uses the same E2E protocol used by WhatsApp. The good thing is Signal is open source. That means everyone has access to its source code and it is run by donations.

Using an open-source and widely trusted protocol such as the Signal protocol would have been better than using a proprietary closed-source encryption protocol in Telegram.

Signal encrypts the metadata too. In signal, there is no way to know whom is messaging whom with this.

Authentication

👉 WhatsApp offers a built in lock feature on both Android and iOS apps. You can also lock with your biometrics and Two factor authentication.

👉 Telegram also offers lock feature providing security for authentication.

👉 Signal by default encrypts all the local files with a 4-digit passphrase. And if you want to create an encrypted local backup then you can do that as well.

Data stored

The data that will be accessed by WhatApp is mentioned at the beginning of the post.

👉Telegram will have access to your Phone number and contacts.

👉Signal will store none of your data.

While Signal beats Telegram and WhatsApp handily when it comes to security, it falls short on the features it offers. Still, I don’t think there’s any big missing feature that might deter you from using the app.

You have secure messaging, voice, and video calls and all communications are end-to-end encrypted. Further, you can create groups, however, you don’t have the option to broadcast messages to multiple contacts at once. Plus, Signal has recently added support for group calling as well, something that was missing from the app for a long time.

You have features such as disappearing messages similar to self-destructing messages of Telegram, and the ability to send a one-time viewable image. For me, the best feature of Signal is “Note to Self”. Unlike WhatsApp, you don’t have to create a single-member group to send notes to yourself. On Signal, the feature is available natively and you can jot down your thoughts and ideas while messaging with your friends and family.

Apart from that, Signal allows you to relay voice calls to its servers so your identity remains concealed from your contacts. The feature is somewhat similar to what a VPN does. Signal also offers a built-in option to hide your IP address. Further, you can enable incognito keyboard while typing on Signal, apply dark mode, delete old messages in one stroke, and of course, blur faces and private information from images using its powerful photo editor.

More about signal tips and tricks can be found here.

Conclusion

To sum everything up, I would suggest going with Telegram if you want more features than the average messenger. You can consider Signal if you’re looking for the essential messaging and calling features along with a high-standard of security. However, WhatsApp is looking more dicey than ever now with the new policy update.

Some quotes to sum up on the privacy part. If you don’t care about it, please go and watch social dilemma. I recommend doing it. It is not a waste of your time but can open a new perspective on privacy and social media.

A Passionate Software Engineer | www.pranaybathini.com

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