WhatsApp to Signal: Is the switch worth it?
January 18 2021 0 Comment

WhatsApp has released a new privacy policy on January 4 this year that permits its parent company, Facebook to extract data from its 2 billion user accounts. Fueled by safety concerns over data security, several users are on a rush to switch to alternative Apps such as Telegram and Signal.

Amidst the fury against WhatsApp’s latest policy, the App that has jumped to the top is Signal. The App proclaimed in a tweet, that it is the top downloaded app on App Store. It has witnessed a mounting surge in new users, due to which it is experiencing technical difficulties for new accounts verification and is resolving the issue to accommodate the extra capacity.

The spotlight on Signal is also attributed to Telsa CEO, Elon Musk’s tweet “Use Signal” to his 41.5 million followers on January 7. The endorsement is backed by the likes of Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey and renowned American whistleblower Edward Snowden.

One needs to understand the privacy policy of WhatsApp and the new Apps before arriving at a conclusion. We take you through the key features of WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal for you to decide the course of action to defend your data privacy.


  • WhatsApp requires your phone number and a profile name to create an account. It stores your contact information, transaction history and payment account when you use their services for purchases or other financial transactions.
  • The messaging service stores messages on their device and not on the servers. After messages are delivered, they are deleted from the server. WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption to prevent third parties from reading them. Automatically collected information include usage and log Information, device information and location details.
  • WhatsApp uses Facebook’s global data centers to collect IP addresses and phone number area codes to estimate your location (city, country) and store the data. WhatsApp shares this data with other Facebook companies to make suggestions for enhanced features, run relevant offers and ads across Facebook.
  • The App also shares information with legal or government authorities to enforce terms and policies, during investigations of potential violations; prevention of fraud and other illegal activities and security issues; and to protect the rights and safety of other users.

Issues with data sharing

WhatsApp has run into controversies about user data shared with Facebook and has triggered a global alarm about the safety of user data.

The notification compels users to accept its updated privacy policy to continue using the App. The policy makes it clear that WhatsApp collects expansive metadata from user’s phones, including internet protocol addresses and phone number area codes to estimate users’ geographical location. The policy confirmed that it will allow Facebook access to messages that users share with businesses on the messenger App, to further influence buying behavior through targeted advertising by businesses on Facebook.

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However, in a statement on January 12, WhatsApp clarified that the policy does not affect the privacy of messages sent to friends and family. It clarified that the update would include changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides further transparency about how data is collected and used. The data shared with Facebook is used to help refine services for personalizing features and content.

WhatsApp has published a new FAQ page on user privacy in response to the widespread backlash over the upcoming policy update.


  • Only mobile number and basic data (profile name, picture and about information) are required to create the account. The e-mail address is requested when you enable 2-step-verification for your account or to store documents on the Telegram Passport feature.
  • There is a function called secret chats that encrypts data with a key, when shared between you and the recipient. Telegram does not store secret chats on their servers.
  • Telegram stores the contact on your phone and notify you as soon as one of your contacts signs up for Telegram. You have the option to refuse syncing contacts or delete them from the servers by changing your data privacy settings.
  • The servers and networks which store personal data inside data centers are owned by Telegram. No data is shared with the data centers and data is heavily encrypted so that intruders or engineers cannot access them.
  • Telegram does not process payments from users and relies on different payment providers to handle and store credit card details. Telegram developers do not have access to credit card information. Shipping information is sent directly to the merchant bot developer. However, Telegram can store it for you if you choose to save it for future purchases.

Data sharing

Telegram may share information with other Telegram users in accordance with their privacy policy.

Telegram may also share your personal data with its parent company Telegram Group Inc, located in the British Virgin Islands and Telegram FZ-LLC, a group member located in Dubai to help provide, improve, and support services. Telergam may share information with law enforcement authorities.


Signal is a messaging App with the tagline “Say hello to privacy”, can be downloaded on Apple (iPhone/iPad), Android, Mac, Windows, and Linux devices. The app has been developed by Signal Messenger LLC and Signal Foundation (created by Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp and Moxie Marlinspike, current CEO of Signal Messenger). Brian Acton quit WhatsApp in 2017 and donated $50 million to fund Signal.

  • Users need to provide basic information (phone number, profile name and picture) to register the account.
  • Messaging history is stored on your own devices and additional technical information (limited to the minimum) is stored on their server that is necessary to operate the service- establish calls and transmit messages. Signal also works with third parties to provide some of their services.
  • Users get features of secure messaging, voice, and video calls with end-to-end encryption. The app has added the group chat feature recently, where users can create groups without the option to broadcast messages.
  • Signal would share your data upon legal or governmental request to detect and prevent fraud and for solving security issues.

Features: Signal vs WhatsApp

  • Signal only collects users’ phone numbers compared to WhatsApp. WhatsApp collects a huge pile of data including phone number, email address, contacts, advertising data, device ID and payment information.
  • Signal allows adding 150 users in a group, However, people receive invites to join a group and not everyone can be automatically added to the group unlike WhatsApp. Signal also offers a disappearing feature which you can set for each individual chat for a duration of 5 seconds to one week.
  • Signal has the option to write notes to self rather than forming a single person group to send notes.
  • Signal app also allows users to relay their voice calls to app servers and can conceal their identity from their contacts.
  • Signal has the “Sealed Sender” feature to protect user data, under which no one will be able to figure out who is sending and receiving messages. This app encrypts files with a four-digit passphrase and users can also get a local backup. This app also encrypts group calls.

Signal has been declared as one of the safest messaging services and uses the open-source Signal Protocol to implement end-to-end encryption to user’s metadata as well.

With changes in WhatsApp’s privacy policy, several users are contemplating to ditch WhatsApp and switch to Signal. Now that we have briefly explained data sharing features of the messaging Apps, it is up to you to decide whether to abandon WhatsApp and accolade Signal as the champion App of privacy.