Move from WhatsApp to Signal and Telegram grows

When news broke that WhatsApp, a free messaging application, would require users to share their data with Facebook, privacy concerns emerged.

The Facebook-owned app changed its privacy policy in January, asking users to accept new terms which would see it share data with its parent company. Failure to agree with the new terms meant that the users' WhatsApp accounts would be deactivated.

In the expected changes are details of what will be shared on Facebook, including account registration details like one’s phone number, transaction data, service-related information, information on how you interact with others (including businesses) when using Whatsapp Services, mobile device information and your IP address.

WhatsApp, a free messaging application available for Android and other smartphones, gained popularity in 2010.

Huge contrast

The application offers mobile users the convenience of voice and video calls, free chats enabled by internet connection as well as easy sharing of photographs and other documents.

Noela Oware, a content creator in Nairobi, says WhatsApp privacy concerns prompted her to move to Signal Messenger.

Signal Messenger is a software similar to WhatsApp which allows one-on-one messages, group messages and sharing of and files. The app was founded in 2018 and already has more than 20 million active monthly users.

Ms Oware is not alone, there has been a switch to Signal by social media users wary of the new changes.

“I feel that Signal is a lot more secure than WhatsApp because while setting it up, the application prompts you to answer many security questions. This is a huge contrast with WhatApp which only requires your phone number. The only inconvenience at the moment is that not enough people have moved, so the network reach is limited. I hope my friends can make the move quickly so that our usual communication may continue,” she says.

Collins Kithinji, a car salesman in Mombasa, believes Signal will be a good alternative to WhatsApp.

“It’s not fair for Whatsapp to share our data and contacts, how can we know for sure that they are not monitoring even our private conversations?” said Mr Kithinji.

Already, he is communicating with friends and family in the US through Signal.

But Kithinji notes that Signal does not offer stories or status updates, like Whatsapp, Facebook and Instagram.

The WhatsApp status allows users to put up temporary posts that disappear within 24 hours to ensure constant interaction.

Emerald Martins, a banker in Nairobi, says WhatsApp privacy concerns are especially worrying for business owners.

Encryption protocol

“I have been trying out Telegram and Supfrica, although Supfrica seems to have been pulled down by hackers,” says Martins.

Telegram is another app benefiting from the exodus from WhatsApp.

Telegram boasts of heavy encryption and self-destructing mesages. It was founded in 2013 and has more than 400 million active users.

Vinnie, a tout, says Telegram has strict privacy features.

“The good thing about Telegram is that when on a Telegram group, group members cannot access each other’s phone numbers. It’s very intrusive for a stranger to be able to pick my number simply because we are in one group with similar interests,” says Vinnie.

Forbes has weighed in on the debate on which is better between WhatsApp and Signal.

“Signal’s security is better than WhatsApp’s. Both use Signal’s encryption protocol, but whereas Signal’s is fully opensource, meaning it can be examined for vulnerabilities by security researchers, WhatsApp uses its own proprietary deployment. But both are end-to-end encrypted—your content is safe. WhatsApp’s main security weakness is its cloud backup option, which stores your chat history, absent end-to-end encryption in Google’s or Apple’s cloud. Signal does not offer any such option, for security reasons,” reads the piece by Forbes.

According to Forbes, a move from WhatsApp to Telgram is regressive, and will not improve the social media user’s experience or privacy.

“Telegram does not offer end-to-end encryption by default. There is a “secret chat” option, where one user can message another using end-to-end encryption between the two devices and bypassing Telegram’s cloud, but this does not extend to groups,” reads the article by Forbes.

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