How Secure Is Signal’s Encrypted Messaging Service?

July 16, 2020 • Devin Partida

Instant messaging is a central part of communication in the modern world. It allows people to chat in real-time from any location across the map. Now, Signal is becoming one of the most popular apps for instant messaging due to its heavily encrypted nature and emphasis on privacy. With Signal encrypted messaging, some people are choosing it over the current leader, WhatsApp.

Privacy concerns are a major focus for people everywhere in the world — especially with hacks or breaches and big tech companies mishandling personal information constantly. Now, is the Signal app on the rise to the top with its encryption? The dynamic is quickly becoming Signal vs. WhatsApp.

Signal’s Focus on Privacy

With a global focus on how big tech and governments handle privacy, newer companies are looking to meet that need. Signal has risen in popularity since its initial release in 2014. The platform’s focus on privacy is one of the main reasons why people are flocking to download it. The other reason is its minimalistic and simplified user interface.

Signal is a free and private instant messaging app. Like WhatsApp or iMessage, Signal allows users to connect with friends and family around the world without international SMS fees. Signal offers standard features like sending text messages, pictures, videos and documents. It comes with voice and video calling as well. The Signal app doesn’t include ads, web tracking or excess features like stickers. Instead, it focuses on minimalism, which draws many people in.

However, its main allure is its open-source and secure nature. The app’s developers have established that they put users’ privacy first. Signal’s encrypted messaging is end-to-end, which means that the app prevents third parties from accessing the conversation in any way. Signal itself, along with state or corporate entities, won’t be able to see private conversations.

Additionally, users can set optional times for automatic deletion of messages for extra privacy. Since it’s peer-reviewed and experts routinely audit it, Signal is always up-to-date with the latest security measures. Whether it’s group messages or between individuals — on iOS, Android or desktop PCs — Signal ensures privacy across the board.

Signal vs. WhatsApp

Part of the reason for the praise surrounding Signal’s platform is the comparison to its competitor, WhatsApp. The two are similar in nature, both ensuring security and simple platforms that work across continents. However, Signal excels where WhatsApp falters.

In 2014, Facebook purchased WhatsApp for $19 billion, which was a major headline when it happened. From a business perspective, this move seems like a beneficial one for both Facebook and WhatsApp. From an individual point of view, though, privacy mishandling becomes an immediate concern.

Facebook’s data privacy handling has been a recurring problem. In fact, years of privacy issues led to pushback when Facebook purchased WhatsApp. Then, in February 2020, WhatsApp announced in a blog post that the app had surpassed 2 billion downloads. With a large percentage of the population using both WhatsApp and Facebook, users’ concerns over the merger intensified.

Here’s where Signal comes in. WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption just as Signal does. However, WhatsApp collects other information like contact information, cookies, log information, device information and location from those who share it. These bits of information fall under the category of metadata, which Signal does not collect.

Facebook again came under scrutiny for political advertising, targeting and allowing misinformation campaigns to flourish. As Facebook collects metadata from WhatsApp, the company may use it for forms of advertising, which some users have aversions to.

Overall, while WhatsApp provides security for its users, Signal provides better privacy. Those who focus on privacy for their messages will most likely turn to Signal if Facebook doesn’t make changes.

Privacy From the Start

Signal is a minimalistic app that brings instant messaging back to the basics in an innovative way. It will draw in people who enjoy the standard abilities of messaging without distracting add-ons. Primarily, though, Signal’s encrypted messaging will be what stands out to most people.

Privacy is a growing focus in communities everywhere in the world. With Signal, people can use the app without having to worry about the company mishandling their information.

If people continue to make the switch to Signal, corporations like Facebook and WhatsApp will have to rethink their user agreements and their data collection policies. For now, Signal is leading the way for a more private message platform.

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