The Great Debate: What’s App, Telegram and Signal

The Great Debate: What’s App, Telegram and Signal

As if the pandemic was not enough, people all over the world have been told by the messaging service WhatsApp that they will be forced to share information with other Facebook-owned companies if they want to keep using the messenger service.

This announcement was made on the 6th January 2021, but due to much outrage amongst  WhatsApp users who are concerned about the increased integration with Facebook, the company has decided to extend the deadline.

There has since been a massive call for WhatsApp users to leave the popular platform and use more privacy-focused messaging services such as Signal and Telegram. Both Telegram and the all-new Signal are considered to be the best alternative to Whatsapp and at the same time offer top notch security features. The question remains. Should you switch?

About the What’s App New policy

Basically, the updated privacy policy requires users to agree to share any data that it may collect about you with Facebook.

This data will then be shared with the broader Facebook networks such as Instagram and Messenger. This applies regardless of whether you have accounts or profiles within those platforms.

The option to share data with Facebook has existed on the app for years, but it was only an option and not mandatory.

The terms and conditions now state the following:

 “WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, the other Facebook companies. We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate”.

What is The Big Deal?

Basically when it comes to the efficiency and  messaging service functions of WhatsApp there has been no change at all. End-to-end encrypted conversations and calls are still intact and work the same as it always did.

Neither WhatsApp or Facebook are able to see who you are talking to and what the topics of your conversations are.

WhatsApp maintains that it will not share contacts, or any users shared location with Facebook. “Messages can still be set to disappear, and groups still remain private”, the company clarified on Twitter this week.

The only difference is the actual type of information that is being shared with Facebook

According to the policy. the information that will be shared with Facebook includes:

  • The user’s browser information
  • The user’s language
  • The users time zone
  • The users IP address and mobile network
  • The devices battery level, signal strength
  • Connection information of your phone.

These changes will significantly deepen the integration between Facebook and WhatsApp and users have concerns that although WhatsApp will continue to encrypt text conversations, other unencrypted data points may become problematic .

To make matters even worse Facebook has in the past already been under the spotlight for privacy breaches and security vulnerability.

WhatsApp vs Signal vs Telegram

WhatsApp is the largest messaging service in the world and has over 2 billion monthly active users. Telegram has around 400 million users, while Signal has approximately 20 million monthly active users.

While WhatsApp has an enormous number of users, Telegram and Signal are fast gaining significant popularity.

Here is a breakdown of what each of the Apps have to offer their users:

WhatsApp  WhatsApp has everything you need on a social messaging service and even includes an in-app payments feature. Group chats for up to 256 members.The ability to broadcast messages to multiple contacts.Voice and video calls, both for individuals and groups.Group video calls (8 users at any time).The WhatsApp Status feature.The ability to share all sorts of files and documents with your contacts.Photos, videos and audio files can be shared.The ability to share live locations with your contacts.Backup and restore messages and data via cloud services such as Google Drive and iCloud.End to end encryption communication for all messages, video calls, voice calls and photos.WhatsApp uses E2E protocol.  
Telegram  Telegram offers support to groups of up to 200,000 members. and is well known for its larger groups.Multiple group-specific features such as bots, polls, quizzes and hashtags for larger group experiences.Self-destructing messages.The size limit for sharing files on Telegram is 1.5 GBSupports voice and video call on both Android and iOS devicesE2E only secret chats feature.The company has confirmed that it shares 0 bytes of data with third parties.  
Signal  Due to many WhatsApp users opting to move to other platforms Signal has duly added more servers so as to handle the new traffic. This non-profit app is largely used by journalists and human rights activists who are looking for a more secure and encrypted mode of communication.Signal offers secure messaging, voice, and video calls with end-to-end encryption. You can create groups, but you cannot broadcast messages to multiple contacts all at once. Added support for group calling.Self-destructing messages.Note to Self-features so you can share your own thoughts and ideas without having to create single member groups.Relay voice calls to its servers. Identity is not shared which is virtually the same as using a VPN.Signal uses back-end user-facing encryption service.Encryption of metadata so as to offer multiple levels of security.  

Which App is More Secure?

WhatsApp does not encrypt backups and also does not encrypt metadata unlike Signal, which is used to carry communication between two endpoints. WhatsApp group chats have previously been found to be indexed on Google search, which is a major data breach worry.

Unfortunately Telegram group chats are not encrypted unless you use Secret Chats that only support single-user communication. 

When it comes to privacy, Signal offers one of the most secure forms of communication that can be found on the Internet. Signal by default encrypts all the local files with a 4-digit passphrase and also supports encrypted group calls. It does, however, lack a host of features when compared to other messaging applications.

Here is a list of data that each of the messaging apps collect from their users:

WhatsApp Data Collection  Device ID User ID Advertising Data Purchase History Coarse Location Phone Number Email Address Contacts Product Interaction Crash Data Performance Data Other Diagnostic Data Payment Information Customer Support Product Interaction Other User Content  
Telegram Data Collection  Contact Information Contacts User ID  
Signal Data Collection  None – It only stores your phone number  


The Bottom Line

You need to ask yourself what is of more importance to you as an individual.  Do you choose access and convenience over privacy or vice versa?

With WhatsApp being the worlds largest messaging app if you are looking for convenience then it is certainly the only way to go.

Even if you do plan to stop using WhatsApp you need to convince your family and friends to stop using the app and start using a new one as well.  This is not going to happen, especially for those who are not very familiar with fast-evolving technology.

Caught between a rock and a hard place? At the end of the day the choice is yours to make.

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