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Many WhatsApp users are abandoning ship after the world’s most popular messaging app changed its Terms of Service (TOS) to integrate further with Facebook.

Users have begun looking for other similar apps to use as an alternative to WhatsApp. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, along with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey urged users, through a tweet, of the Facebook-connected app to switch to Signal instead.

Telegram, meanwhile, has also reported a significant surge of downloads since WhatsApp’s new TOS.

Telegram CEO Pavel Durov posted in his Telegram channel that WhatsApp’s new TOS accelerated users’ flight from WhatsApp to Telegram.

Durov also noted that he would be happy to help Facebook save “tens of millions of dollars” by giving away one advice for free: “Respect your users.”

With that said, which messaging apps gives their users’ data the best security and privacy?

Signal is listed as a private messenger in Apple’s app store with the caption, “Say ‘Hello’ to privacy.” Former WhatsApp co-founder, Brien Acton, created the app after leaving WhatsApp in 2017.

The app is currently hailed as the better alternative to WhatsApp due to Signal using state-of-the-art end-to-end (E2E) encryption based on a protocol built by American cryptographer and Signal co-founder and CEO, Moxie Marlinspike. The encryption covers all forms of communication using Signal.

Signal is also run by the Signal Foundation, a non-profit organisation which runs the app. it is also endorsed by American whistle-blower Edward Snowden and Bruce Schneier, an internationally renowned security technologist in Signal’s website.

The app only stores your phone number in its database, Signal stated in a blog post on 5 June 2020. It also does not share users’ data with other platforms.

Messages in Signal aren’t stored in any cloud server, meaning if you delete your Signal app in your phone, your account and the messages you’ve sent and received are also removed.

Telegram’s encryption protocol, meanwhile, is based on the MTProto protocol that was built on “time-tested algorithms” to make users’ messages secure and delivered quickly and reliably even on weak connections.

Telegram encrypts messages on a client-server/server-client encryption and those are stored in Telegram’s cloud while its secret chats and audio and video calls employ a client-client encryption (which is E2E encryption) according to Telegram’s FAQ page.

Normal messages are stored in the cloud for ease of recovery, should something happen to the user’s phone. However, Telegram stated in its FAQ that to protect messages stored in the cloud, chat data is stored in multiple data centres in different countries that are “controlled by different legal entities spread across different jurisdictions.”

The decryption keys that are required to unlock the cloud are split into parts and are never kept in a single place. Several court orders from different jurisdictions are required by Telegram to give any user’s data.

The only information Telegram collects are a user’s ID, contacts, and phone number according to its Privacy Policy page.

For users looking for an app that secures group chats both Signal and Telegram offers such a service. However, while Signal can only offer a limit of 1,000 members, Telegram, on the other hand, can host up to 200,000 members.

To compare other features from Signal and Telegram, MVW Consulting has a table comparing these two apps with WhatsApp on their website, while Slant provides a list of pros and cons of Signal and Telegram has side-by-side.

Comparison of WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal
Credit: MVW Consulting

Written by John Paul Joaquin