The signature green WhatsApp logo has been a staple on almost every social media users’ phone since the social networking application gained popularity in the early 2010s. Sleek and easy to navigate through, the application offered 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.
In the fine print of the expected changes on the application were details of what would 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.
Noela Oware, a content creator based in Nairobi says that although disappointed, her privacy concerns as well as the need for continued social media connectivity prompted her to make a quick switch to Signal. Signal is a messaging app similar to WhatsApp, allowing one on one messages, group messages and sharing of images and files. The app was founded in 2018 and already has over 20 million active monthly users. Oware is not alone in the move, as there has been a mass exodus to Signal.
“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 resume,” says Oware.
Collins Kithinji, a car salesman based in Mombasa says that he has heard about the Signal hype and fully supports it.
“It’s not fair for WhatsApp to have access to your balance, and contacts, how can we know for sure that they are not monitoring even our private conversations?” said Kithinji.
Kithinji says that so far, he’s been communicating with friends and family mostly based in the United States through Signal. But Kithinji says that the one disadvantage he has noted using Signal is that it does not offer stories or status updates like Whatsapp, Facebook and Instagram.
Emerald Martins, who works at a Nairobi bank managing business clients says that the privacy concerns are especially worrying for business owners.
“I have been trying out Telegram and Supfrica, although Supfrica seems to have been pulled down by hackers,” says Martins.
Telegram is another app claiming many people exiting WhatsaAp and there has been a lot of humor circulating about the move to Telegram, with the app seemingly ridiculing the new WhatsApp policy through a GIF posted on twitter. On its end, Telegram boasts heavy encryptions. It was founded in 2013 and has over 400 million active users. Now the questions social media users are pondering on are, to stay on WhatsApp or to leave?
Vinnie, a conductor of a matatu in Nairobi says that Telegram is the way to go for him.
“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.
As the WhatsApp backlash continues and social media users continue to try and make informed decisions, Forbes has weighed in on the debate.
“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 Telegram 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.