Users seek out WhatsApp alternatives following privacy concerns

Chat apps Signal and Telecom prepare for increased traffic, with increased downloads and celebrity endorsements

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Changes are coming to WhatsApp's privacy policy, and users will need to agree to share app data with Facebook by February 8th in order to keep using the service. Other changes implement business hosting via the messenger app and new ecommerce features.

Some of the data users will be required to authorize sharing with Facebook – WhatsApp's parent company – includes:

  • IP address, as well as browser and ISP information.
  • Details about your device – your mobile network, phone model, make and number.
  • Personal details – such as your name when you register.
  • Transactions made via WhatsApp.

Naturally, the shift in WhatsApp's privacy policy sparked concern online, though the messenger app cites that it has always shared data with Facebook. But the pacification may be too little, too late, as users flock to alternative services, despite potentially having years of chats, saved contacts and media stored in the app.

WhatsApp users can rest assured that their conversations will not be shared with Facebook, however, seeing as WhatsApp makes use of the same end-to-end encryption as Signal – one of the apps being highlighted as a viable, secure, alternative. In fact, even Elon Musk has touted the app (in his own brusque fashion), tweeting "Use Signal".

Signal has seen an influx of new users since WhatsApps privacy updates were unveiled, and the company co-founded by Brian Acton, who previously acted as co-founder of WhatsApp. Acton parted ways with WhatsApp after growing concerned about the treatment of user data, and Facebook's role in the app's operations.

Signal was downloaded 246,000 times during the week before the WhatsApp changes were announced on January 4th, a number that soared to 8.8 million the following week.

Sensor Tower has reported that Signal was downloaded 246,000 times during the week before the WhatsApp changes were announced, on January 4th, a number that soared to 8.8 million the following week. As a result, Signal is now the App Store and Play Store's most downloaded app. This rush of users caused a bit of commotion, particularly with verification code delays and the creation of groups, but Signal addressed the issue via Twitter, claiming to be tackling the problem.

Signal's end-to-end encryption has made it a favorite of journalists and human rights activists, and Edward Snowden even advocated for the app, saying: "I use it every day and I'm not dead yet".

Disconcerted WhatsApp users also took to Telegram, which found popularity amongst the cryptocurrency community, boosting downloads from 6.5 million during the week commencing December 28th, and 11 million the week immediately after.

Whilst WhatsApp informed all users about its pending privacy policy update, the changes will only actually affect users outside of the EU – and yes, the "EU" includes Britain for the time being – due to tighter privacy regulations.

Niamh Sweeney, WhatsApp's director of policy, clarified via Twitter that EU users will not need to agree to share data with Facebook.

[[post-object type="blockquote" author="Niamh Sweeney"]]It remains the case that WhatsApp does not share European Region WhatsApp user data with Facebook for the purpose of Facebook using this data to improve its products or ads.[[/post-object]]

WhatsApp raced to allay concerns about how personal data will be collected from WhatsApp, as well as who it will be shared with. In a recent statement, WhatsApp claimed that:

[[post-object type="blockquote" author="WhatsApp"]]The policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way. Instead, this update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.[[/post-object]]

The statement also outlines WhatsApp's plan to introduce digital shops, where users can purchase goods via the app, if they choose. The update will also include a feature allowing users to message businesses directly via apps, and hosting functionalities for large companies.

Here at ProPrivacy, we've got you covered if you're thinking about swapping WhatsApp out for a more secure, transparent alternative.

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