Switching to Signal? Here are Things You Should Know About WhatsApp Alternative

Switching to Signal? Here are Things You Should Know About WhatsApp Alternative

Highlights:

  • Ever since WhatsApp has revised its privacy policy, several users are moving to Signal App
  • Elon Musk suggested to use Signal app, which has helped boost the interest of people in the app
  • Signal is an application for messaging that can be downloaded on Apple (iPhone and iPad), Android, Mac and Linux devices

After WhatsApp revised its privacy policy, which elaborates further on the sharing of data with Facebook, some users are switching to Signal App ditching WhatsApp. In fact, as Signal’s servers were unable to handle the influx, the mass exodus caused some trouble and verification codes were delayed, although that problem appears to have been resolved. In addition, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has also released a ‘Use Signal’ call to his millions of followers on Twitter. The app is already leading the charts.

But what is this Signal App? Well, it is a privacy-focused messaging app and has been around since 2014. Edward Snowden and former WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton are other prominent endorsers of the app.

Signal provides secure email, audio, and video calls to its users and all messages are encrypted end-to-end just like WhatsApp. The Signal protocol is currently used by WhatsApp for its end-to-end encryption feature. But Signal is not owned by Facebook, unlike WhatsApp. We take a look at everything about Signal that you need to know.

What is Signal? Who built the app?

Signal, available for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows, Mac, and Linux, is a messaging app. The software is designed by the Signal Foundation and Signal Messenger LLC and is a non-profit organization. An American cryptographer who developed the app is Moxie Marlinspike and is currently the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Signal Messenger.

WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton and Marlinspike established the Signal Foundation. Acton, who left WhatsApp in 2017, has spent approximately $50 million to help finance Signal.

Is Signal a paid app? What are the features?

The app is totally free to use. Signal allows users to send messages, make audio and video calls, share images, videos to connect with their friends, similar to how other messaging apps function. In fact, in December 2020, it recently introduced the group video calling option. On Signal, one can also build groups that are limited to 150 members.

Everyone is not immediately added to the group if you create a group. People are sent an invitation and, unlike WhatsApp, they have to accept the invitation to join the group, whereas in WhatsApp anyone who has your contact can add you directly to a group. And unless you change the WhatsApp setting, anyone can add their group directly to you.

The messaging app Signal enables its users to messages on an individual level and the user can also send emoji reactions to a message, apart from this, the user can even remove a single message from the chat by selecting the option ‘Delete for Everyone.’ 

All of these features we have already seen on other messaging apps such as WhatsApp, so you will not miss on anything much while switching.

The signal also has a message function that disappears. For each individual chat, you can set disappearing messages and pick a time varying from 5 seconds to one week.

But the target of Signal is absolutely on privacy. The application is not only about delivering end-to-end encryption but prefers to gather limited user information without compromising on features.

Also Read: Update: WhatsApp Issues New Privacy Policy, Will Share User Data With Facebook

Can I use Signal on my laptop or iPad?

Yes, on your iPad or laptop, you can use Signal and link the account to the one on your phone. However, when you connect, the chat history is not transferred. So, what is this supposed to mean? Say you’ve been using Signal on your iPhone and using the QR code feature to connect it to your Mac. You can find this in the Linked Devices feature in the settings of the app. Your account is synchronized with your Mac, but not all previous conversations can appear on your Mac. That’s because all message history is saved on the individual device itself.

Can I back-up my chats to Google Drive or iCloud on Signal?

No, this is not feasible in comparison to WhatsApp. Therefore, if you lose access to your old phone and set up Signal on a new device again, all previous chats are gone. Signal says your device stores all texts, images, files, and other content locally. You can move the data if you have your old device, but if you have lost your phone, cleared the data on your phone, or changed your number, then you can’t restore the chats.

What are some of the features of privacy on Signal?

There are plenty of privacy-focused features in Signal. For one thing, Signal’s privacy settings have a ‘Relay Calls’ option where the calls go through a Signal server to prevent your contact from disclosing your IP address. But enabling this, according to Signal, decreases call quality and might not be essential for all.

It also provides the option of turning Read Receipts on or off, so anyone can see when their messages have been read. It also offers an option for typing indicators to be switched on or off to indicate when a message is being typed. Plus, as seen on WhatsApp, there is no feature like Status that can display you when you are online.

Signal also allows users to turn off link previews from websites if you send those in messages. To keep your account secure, there is also a protection PIN you can set up. To ensure the Signal keeps asking you for the same request, one may set PIN reminders. Know, if you miss it, this PIN can’t be retrieved, although Signal allows you to change it from the setting. However, if you forget the PIN, you can lose access to your account.

Signal also has a Screen Lock feature, where you can access the app by relying on Touch ID, FaceID or the passcode of your iOS device. However, even when the Screen Lock is activated, incoming calls and message notifications can be answered.

Also Read: Gold Prices Down ₹ 8,000 From Record High. Is It The Right Time To Invest?

What data does Signal collect?

If you look at the privacy nutrition label of the Signal app on Apple’s App Store, the only information gathered is ‘Contact Info,’ which is the phone number. And according to Signal’s privacy policy, it is “designed to never collect or store any sensitive information” and all messages and calls on the app are encrypted end-to-end, ensuring they cannot be accessed by any third party, nor can Signal access them.

The key information gathered is account information, according to Signal’s privacy policy. This is primarily the phone number used for the Signal account to be created. Signal says that there is end-to-end encryption of other information added to the account, such as profile name and image.

The app also stores on its servers some additional technical details, including “randomly generated authentication tokens, keys, push tokens, and other material needed to create calls and transmit messages.” The Signal App company says that it “restricts this additional technical info to the minimum necessary to function the services.”

Also Read: 11 Best WhatsApp Alternative Messaging Apps You Must Try

Signal does not store on its servers your messages or any information about your calls. It does, however, queue “end-to-end encrypted messages on its servers for delivery to devices that are temporarily offline,” such as where the battery of a phone is dead or internet access has been lost. Signal states that the message history of a user is saved on his/her own device.

The signal also makes it clear that “the content of your messages or calls cannot be decrypted or otherwise accessed.”

Signal states that it can “optionally find out which contacts are Signal users in your address book” with respect to other contacts. It does so using a service, but it adds that this contact information of a user is kept safe.

According to Signal App this information “may be cryptographically hashed and transmitted to the server to regulate which of your contacts are registered.”

Signal also says that to provide certain services, it can share some information with third parties. For example, third-party providers that have a verification code, for instance. It also states that in connection with our services, if a consumer depends on third-party services such as “YouTube, Spotify, Giphy, etc., their terms and privacy policies govern your use of those services.”

The app makes it clear that it does not ever “sell, rent or monetize your personal information or content in any way.”

Can business accounts contact you on Signal?

The signal is intended for direct relations between people. It does not have dedicated business pages, such as WhatsApp, for small, medium or larger companies. But yes, to contact users, a company can join Signal as a regular account, although you will still have the option to block any contact.

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Shivani Singh

Shivani has been an avid reader of newspapers since her childhood and likes to know what is happening around the world. Her love for news and bringing forth the absolute is what drove her writing for the people. She has worked in the industry for over 4 years and believes that people’s basic rights should always be honoured. Apart from reading, she is a foodie and loves to try her hands-on cooking different cuisines.

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