Tech

Elon Musk uses Signal instead of WhatsApp – but there is also criticism of Signal

Photo by Florian Gaertner / Photothek via Getty Images

It was one of the big news in the past week: The messenger service WhatsApp is changing its terms of use and is now forcing its users to share personal data such as telephone numbers and locations with the parent company Facebook – at least in the USA. The change caused a lot of displeasure and criticism. Tesla CEO Elon Musk also shared his views and proposed an alternative with Signal, which has received a lot of attention since then. But what is so special about the Messenger and how does it differ from WhatsApp?

The app has been available in popular stores for Android and iOS smartphones since 2014 and can also be installed as a desktop version for Macs, Windows and Linux devices.

The big advantage of Signal: The app offers a particularly large number of data protection options and collects less data. Similar to Telegram, Signal also uses end-to-end encryption, which keeps your chats secret. Nobody else except you and your chat partner can access your conversations and calls in this way.

WhatsApp now also uses the option for its chats and even uses the same encryption technology as Signal. However, Signal’s source code is freely accessible on the Github platform and can therefore be checked by developers for security gaps.

Signal is a non-profit organization

Another big and for many decisive difference to WhatsApp: Signal is a non-profit organization and is financed through donations. Large companies like Facebook on WhatsApp therefore have no influence on the app and therefore no access to user data.

In terms of functions, Signal offers the same basic building blocks as WhatsApp. You can send messages, voice messages, photos, videos, GIFs, contacts and files via Signal. Audio and video calls and group chats are also possible.

However, Signal also has other specific chat functions to increase security. For example, the security number can be displayed for each chat in order to check the end-to-end encryption with the contact. In addition, users can make messages disappear after a selected time. Stories and status messages, however, are not possible with Signal.

In addition to Elon Musk, other well-known representatives such as the whistleblower Edward Snowden and Twitter boss Jack Dorsey also use the app. WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton even acted as the first major investor in 2018 and financed the project with 50 million US dollars. The European Commission has been recommending Signal as an instant messaging app for its employees since February 2020.

Criticism of the secure messenger service

But even the messenger service based in Silicon Valley does not do without criticism. Because even with Signal, you have to release personal information such as your telephone number at the beginning in order to use the service. A completely anonymous registration with a randomly generated ID as with Threema is therefore not possible.

In the summer of 2020, security experts also criticized the introduction of a new pin feature that was supposed to save certain user data online, as reported by “Der Standard”. Signal reacted to the allegations and has since made the function available as an option.

In addition, there is the low number of users compared to WhatsApp. If you want to do without the Facebook subsidiary in the future, you also have to deal with the fact that you can no longer reach many of your friends in the future. Communication between Signal and WhatsApp users is not possible.

These three chat programs are better than WhatsApp

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