Which app offers better security and privacy?

Which app offers better security and privacy?

Billions of people worldwide use messaging apps daily to exchange text messages, photos, links, etc. But not all messaging apps are created equal.

There are significant differences between them in terms of performance, functionality and, most importantly, privacy and security.

WhatsApp and Signal are among the most popular applications of this type. Here we will compare the two, so you can decide which one is best for you.

WhatsApp Security: What you need to know

Created in 2009 by two former Yahoo! employees WhatsApp quickly became one of the most used messaging apps in the world, asserting itself as the market leader in dozens of countries.

At first, WhatsApp faced criticism from privacy advocates for sending information as plain text and soon added encryption. In 2016, the service fully implemented end-to-end encryption.

Encryption is a must-have feature in any messaging app that aims to provide messaging privacy to users, but WhatsApp messaging encryption doesn’t mean it won’t collect your data.

On the contrary, according to WhatsApp’s official privacy policy, the company collects data about your device (including the operating system and hardware), connection information, IP address, language and time zone.

By default, the app uses the phone number area code to estimate your general location and will know your exact location if you have enabled location permissions in your phone’s settings.

It’s clear that WhatsApp isn’t ideal for privacy, but how does it fare when it comes to security?

In 2019, for example, WhatsApp confirmed that a vulnerability in its systems allowed cybercriminals to install spyware on users’ phones and other devices. In the same year, billionaire Jeff Bezos’ phone was infamously hacked via a WhatsApp video message.

But arguably the biggest red flag when it comes to WhatsApp is the fact that Meta (formerly Facebook) owns it. The company, which acquired WhatsApp in 2014, doesn’t have the best track record in privacy and security, to say the least.

Signal: Is it really safe?

Developed by the nonprofit Signal Foundation, Signal has been around for nearly a decade but has recently exploded in popularity, attracting journalists, activists, dissidents, cybercriminals, and people who care about privacy in general.

On the surface, Signal is quite similar to other popular messaging apps. You can use it to send texts, videos and photos, make individual or group calls and exchange files.

But Signal has attracted privacy-conscious individuals for a reason. The app is completely transparent in its privacy policy, which states that users can further improve their privacy and security by enabling additional privacy features.

So what does Signal know about you? Not much because the app does not collect user data at all. It doesn’t know who you are, where you’re from, or what device or operating system you’re using. All you need is a phone number to register.

Like WhatsApp, Signal uses end-to-end encryption, but unlike the Facebook-owned app, it also has several built-in privacy features, such as the ability to send disappearing messages, turn on the screen lock (which forces the app to ask about verification), forward all calls through Signal’s own servers, and more.

In early 2022, rumors that Signal had a massive outage began to circulate online. But as Forbes reported at the time, there was no evidence of a hack. For its part, Signal described these rumors as a “coordinated misinformation campaign intended to encourage people to use less secure alternatives.”

So, what are the downsides of using Signal? Essentially, the app’s biggest problem is its lack of widespread adoption. After all, how do you maintain your privacy if the person you want to communicate with doesn’t like Signal and uses another app?

Signal vs. WhatsApp: The choice is easy

WhatsApp is intuitive and easy to use, the interface is nice, the servers rarely crash, it’s free, and it does what it needs to do with relative ease. In addition, most of your friends are probably on it.

But if you care about privacy and security, the choice is easy: Signal is among the best privacy-focused apps on the market today, if not the best.

With that in mind, your privacy and security is ultimately your responsibility, and choosing the right app won’t make much of a difference if you don’t take the necessary precautions.

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