• With WhatsApp privacy changes raising concerns among users, Telegram and Signal emerge as the alternatives.

  • We compare Telegram to Signal by examining ownership, functionality, and data collection.

WhatsApp Privacy Concerns

Recently, WhatsApp announced changes to its Privacy Policy, which will see the messaging giant share its users' data with its parent company, Facebook. The announcement, which revealed that the policy change would be effective on 8th February 2021, triggered privacy concerns among WhatsApp users as they perceived that the move would lead to loss of privacy.

To add fuel to the brewing fire in WhatsApp, Elon Musk endorsed a relatively new Messenger App called Signal as he tweeted his followers to use the Signal if they had privacy and safety concerns.

Besides Signal, WhatsApp users are also contemplating using Telegram, a messaging app that is increasing in popularity after WhatsApp's mishap.

Which one is the best alternative?

First, we examine who owns these applications and how they are funded to see if the concerns at WhatsApp, may eventually crop up in the long run. Telegram is owned by Pavel Durov, a billionaire who aided in starting Russia's largest social media network. Although Durov used to fund the messenger app from his deep pockets, he stated that he plans on monetizing Telegram since it is about to hit a billion users and therefore, will require proper funding. With that in mind, Telegram might go the WhatsApp route soon.

On the other hand, Signal is run by a not-for-profit organization, with Brian Acton, the co-founder of WhatsApp, at its helm. Acton left WhatsApp after disagreements over data sharing with Facebook. The fact that this application is funded exclusively through donations, makes it the safest option since it steers clear of influence. Therefore, it may easily honor its commitment to its users' privacy.

Second, looking at the applications' features, they offer the same functionality in that they all support video and voice calls, text messaging, and group chats. However, Signal offers end-to-end encryption in all communications while this is optional for Telegram. This means that your communication could be accessed by a third party if you make the wrong choices through ignorance or negligence. Additionally, Telegram automatically backs up encrypted chats to its servers while Signal does not offer automated cloud backups but allows its users to backup their chats on their mobile phones.

With Signal, you can finally sleep at night knowing that you are the only person who can determine who accesses your conversations.

Third, this concerns the burning issue of privacy and examines the data that these applications collect from their users. WhatsApp is the leader in collecting data as it requires access to the mobile phone number, contacts, location, device info, financial information, purchases, usage data, and diagnostics. Telegram collects data regarding the mobile phone number, device info, and location. Signal only collects data regarding the mobile phone number. It is optional for the user to provide contacts.

Therefore, when examining Telegram and Signal in terms of collecting data, the latter proves to honor its users' right to privacy, hence, emerging as the best messaging application.