WhatsApp started giving an ultimatum to its users: accept that your data is shared with facebook or stop using the app. Having that in mind, what are the alternatives knowing that WhatsApp is ubiquitous, especially in Europe. I’m completely sold to Signal myself but as I discuss the matter with my friends and family, I need to repeat arguments pro and against other platforms.
Before going further, I know that this topic can trigger wars as everyone wants to preach for their church. This post only depicts my opinion with regards to my requirements, yours might be completely different. That said, let’s begin by identifying these requirements.
First, one has to define what are their requirements to choose an app. In my case, they are as follows:
Telegram has an awesome user experience and plenty of nice features like stickers, live location, polls… The issue with it is that end-to-end encryption is not a thing and you have to trust Telegram in keeping your data private.
Users: 400M (April 2020) - source
The fact that end-to-end encryption is opt-in and not available everywhere means it fails to qualify for my first requirement. To add to it, a recent security issue highlighted that, in some circumstances, one could find the location of people using telegram around them. What doesn’t help though is that Telegram is seen as a leader in terms of security/privacy by non-technical people.
Threema has for a long time been closed-source. It is pretty popular in german speaking countries and has been audited several times already. Its clients have been opensourced recently. They also have a business offer, Threema Work. The app focus in on security and privacy. I’ve never used it myself but I understand that it is a good option.
Users: 4.5M (April 2017) - Threema Work: 3000 organizations (January 2019) - source
Threema looks great but the fact that I have to ask my peers to pay for an app they are used to get for free adds friction to the mix.
Signal is an opensource app and is regarded as the most secure messaging app by renowned people, just check the quotes on their homepage.
Users: No numbers but the app has been downloaded more than 10 million times on Google Play.
As said earlier, Signal is my go-to app for everything. I don’t have to trust them as they don’t have any other data than my phone number and the last time I connected to the service. Also, 9to5mac did a review of Signal’s data compared to iMessage/Facebook Messenger/WhatsApp and Signal doesn’t have any.
This is very important because it means that, even if Signal was maintained by a troop of crazy extremists, they don’t have any data about me, my contacts or anything we exchanged. For the same reasons, if a governmental entity was to get access to Signal’s servers or intercept traffic, they couldn’t extract any data. Again, I don’t need to trust them or their infrastructure.
One last thing, Signal has been involved in setting up end-to-end encryption in WhatsApp/Skype using the same technology as Signal itself. This confirms that Signal uses a state-of-the-art encryption.
Signal is the best-choice for my requirements. It has a good UX and is adding features constantly (I’m actually looking forward to and checking every release they do). One note though: it’s a nonprofit and as such needs a regular influx of money so if you do use it, consider setting up a recurring donation!
– This is day 6/100 of #100DaysToOffLoad!