While social communication via messaging apps has been the way to maintain connection for quite some time now, there has always been more than a few issues countering the overdependent need on such platforms that have emerged commercially and sustains still only to be earning the bucks. Security being one of the prime focus areas of users on such apps, one would be expecting that tech giants and conglomerates that own such instant means of communication would be continuously rolling out such features and updating existing ones that would respect more the users’ need for privacy. On the contrary however, there exist only a handful of such presences on the digital platform that make such concerns of security and privacy their priority. Specifically with WhatsApp, the most popular of such apps, beginning 2021 on a note that will be having it share the data of its billion of users with its parent company Facebook, the urgency is all the more evident as cautious users actively look for alternatives to ensure that they do not have to give away personal data to these money spinning rackets, thereby putting their identity and privacy at risk.
Moxie Marlinspike who is the co-founder of the Signal Foundation and also the current CEO of Signal Messenger, apart from being also the co- founder of Whispers System, Signal rides on the basis of its exclusive prioritisation of users’ privacy that which is even reflected in its tagline Say Hello to Privacy.
In being a service rolled out by a non- profit organisation with a mission “to develop open-source privacy technology that protects free expression and enables secure global communication”, Signal has no commercial interest at its core that which makes its end to end encryption feature a more believable proposition than the one propagated by WhatsApp as well. In fact, WhatsApp still uses the Signal protocol for its end-to-end encryption feature and the two apps tend to be not very different from each other as far as the premise of their operation is concerned. Both are free to use messaging apps that which lets their users send messages, make individual as well as group audio and video calls with their friends, and share such media as photos, videos and links. But what seems to be working in favour of Signal in the wake of WhatsApp’s intention to acquire the data of its users is its strong rooting in privacy. End-to-end encrypted to the truest extent, with no third party, Signal included, able to access the content of chats and calls between any number of users because it does not store messages or any information about calls on its servers, Signal’s usage of the open-source Signal Protocol to implement such extensive end-to-end encryption that encrypts the users’ metadata as well makes it more attractive a proposition to explore than WhatsApp on the security front. With also WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton at the helm of affairs at Signal Foundation as co founder and as current executive chairman, who is also one of the ardent advocates of the app, along with other such prominent personalities as Edward Snowden and Elon Musk, Signal sure seems to be the way forward to go for a lot of us for whom instant messaging apps are the definitive order of the day to go about life’s businesses.
Signal’s dealing with security issues however goes beyond its dealings with codes at the core to come also with such features that take greater stock of user’s privacy. Unlike WhasApp, the group creation feature available on Signal is better adapted to user’s needs since addition to a group is subject to the consent of the user. This is made possible by sending out invites to users for joining groups, of which they become members only after acceptance of the invite. With also a disappearing messages feature available on each individual chat that which allows the user to choose the period of time their messages would be available to someone, Signal responds well also to user needs and concerns that which makes it as efficiently functional a messaging app than any other.
The privacy settings of Signal also come with such options as Relay Calls where the calls go through a Signal server to avoid revealing your IP address to your contact. With also a Screen Lock feature, where you can rely on Touch ID, FaceID or your iOS device’s passcode to access the app, Signal goes another step ahead in establishing as a far safer alternative to WhatsApp. In a bid to protect user data, Signal also comes with the “Sealed Sender” feature that renders no means to figure out the sender and the recipient of messages. Setting up a security PIN to safeguard your account even further is yet another feature that asserts the identity of Signal as a secure app that which aims at collecting minimal data from its users. And anyway, the only data that Signal professes to collect is account information that which includes just a phone number, that too does not necessarily have to be the same as that on the device’s SIM card. Such exclusive focus on privacy and security also means that Signal does not allow for data backup which makes it impossible to retrieve any information on another device even when you are logged into your account because the app stores your data only on the device on which you are using it and not across any of its servers. This makes Signal so much of the safe space that cautious users of the web are wary of in their all penetrating reaches. No wonder then that for a secure messaging app that Marlinspike created to ‘try to bring normality to the internet’, Signal has found not just the backing but also the acceptance of a number of esteemed global organisations. Be that in the form of recommendation of the European Union that advocates the use of it for its staff or as one of the contact methods to securely provide tips to major news outlets such as The Washington Post, The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, Signal has remained true to its commitment of privacy from when it rolled out till today even when the world continues to be in the grab of commercialism, selling consumer data at ease to make millions by putting at stake sensitive information pertaining to a section of the world population. Courtesy WhatsApp and its recent decision to even further its interference in our lives, Signal might signal a return to the privacy that the whole world can claim as a human right.