Update: WhatsApp has released a new statement saying that it has rescheduled the date for users to accept its new privacy terms to May 15, 2021. The previous date for the expected change was February 8, 2021.
On its website, WhatsApp recently revealed an update to its Terms of Service, including one very notable change that essentially removed the option for users to prevent their personal information from being shared with parent company Facebook.
This particular change comes into effect on February 8, 2021 (now rescheduled to May 15, 2021), and has so far caused much consternation amongst approximately two billion WhatsApp users around the world who are already worried about Facebook’s questionable attitude towards privacy and its poor track record in handling user data in the past.
Naturally, many users are now seriously considering switching to alternative messaging services, with the two most mooted suggestions being Telegram and Signal.
Both these services are direct competitors to WhatsApp, and both have been labelled as possibly safer and more ethical in their approach to dealing with user data. Signal, in particular, has received plenty of traction as an alternative thanks to a recent tweet by Tesla CEO Elon Musk that suggested for people to start using it instead of WhatsApp.
With plenty of conversation surrounding the issue, we thought it would be great to have a look at the three competing platforms to see just why someone would or wouldn’t switch from WhatsApp to Telegram or Signal, with a particular focus on features, security, and user privacy.
*Note: If you want to skip all the details and just read our conclusion on which platform is right for you, scroll down to the “Conclusions and TL;DR” section.
The current people’s choice, but for how much longer?
WhatsApp has been around for a considerably long time, and has established itself over the past decade as the choice messenger platform for over two billion people worldwide.
But with plenty of unsavory rumors about the company and its parent company’s shady history of questionable data handling, things might be about to change, especially with the dealine drawing near.
WhatsApp’s feature set is known to most, and it has all the necessities done right.
In terms of the basics, there is the ability to send over files, media, contacts, and location details, as well as make voice and video calls.
The size limit for sending over video, images, or voice recordings is 16MB, while the transfer size for documents and files is capped at 100MB.
There is also a “disappearing messages” function that allows sent messages to vanish after an amount of time has passed, making it particularly useful for sending across sensitive information.
For addressing large numbers, WhatsApp provides support for group chats up to 256 participants with the ability to perform voice and video calls for up to eight people.
There is also the Status feature that allows users to post updates similar to Instagram’s Stories function, with images and videos up to 30 seconds allowed.
When it comes to desktop usage, WhatsApp supports access from both web browser and dedicated clients. The catch is that users can only be signed in to one device at any time, and that their WhatsApp smartphone must be connected to the internet for WhatsApp to function. There also isn’t a dedicated app for the iPad.
WhatsApp supports backups on smartphones as well as online backups via iCloud or Google Drive for free.
It also has various customization options and features such as a dark mode, emojis, dynamic wallpapers, and stickers.
In terms of security, WhatsApp uses a considerably secure End-to-End (E2E) encryption method that basically means messages are encrypted at the point of departure and unencrypted only once it reaches the receiver. This ensures that no external party – not even WhatsApp – can intercept and view a message in between a sender and receiver.
More interestingly, the E2E encryption protocol used by WhatsApp is open-sourced (meaning that it’s workings and functionality is unhidden from the world) and developed by the very team behind the Signal app. For those not savvy, this particular protocol has been widely analyzed by experts, with many in agreement with its rating as one of the best on the planet.
But while messages themselves are E2E-encrypted, WhatsApp does not encrypt backups on the device or the cloud, and neither does it encrypt metadata (the information associated with the characteristics of each message such as time and location).
This means that even if no one can intercept a message between two parties, information such as where and when a message was sent can still be retrieved externally.
WhatsApp also supports the option to lock your messages with fingerprints as well as two-factor authentication (2FA).
User Data Collected:
In terms of data collected from users, WhatsApp’s list is by far the most extensive. Here’s a list of what information WhatsApp takes and stores from its users:
1. Device information
2. Advertising data
3. Purchase history
4. Coarse location
5. Phone number
6. Email address
8. Performance and diagnostic data
9. Various other user-related content
Created as a more ethical alternative to WhatsApp by Russian Entrepreneur Pavel Durov, Telegram – while not as popular as WhatsApp – has a steady base of users worldwide, and is well-liked for its host of intuitive and useful chat features unavailable in its competitors.
Telegram does the basics well, but also includes a giant list of other add-ons that allow users to customize and deck out their chats with some very interesting features.
For basic messaging, it supports the sending of files, media, contacts, and location details, as well as voice and video calls. The size limit for sending over files or media of any sort is capped at a whopping 2GB, much higher than WhatsApp.
Similar to WhatsApp, Telegram also has a Secret Chat feature that makes sent messages disappear after a period of time.
For interactions involving large numbers, Telegram opens support for chat groups up to a staggering 200,000 participants, and it also has a channels feature that allows users to create one-way message channels – meaning only admins can send messages – that an unlimited people can subscribe to. This is particularly useful for businesses that want to share their news, updates, or important information with their audience.
Voice and video calls for groups are still in beta testing, and should be implemented in the near future.
One giant advantage that Telegram has over its rivals is the availability of dozens of features that users can add into their chat groups such as automated bots, polls, quizzes, and games, some of which can be really fun additions.
Telegram can also be used on desktop with a dedicated application available for both macOS and Windows. Unlike WhatsApp, it can have multiple logins and does not need your phone to be connected to the internet to work. There is also the option for users to change the phone number associated to their accounts, unlike the way WhatsApp ties accounts to individual phone numbers.
The service does not offer backups. Instead, it stores all content on the cloud and syncs all chats and channels between devices instantaneously.
Telegram also supports stickers and wallpapers as well as various other customization options.
When it comes to security, it may surprise you that Telegram uses the least-safe protocols of the three for standard messaging.
It uses Client-Server encryption, which means that messages sent are decrypted and re-encrypted at the server level before being sent over to the receiver. This means that Telegram theoretically has access to the contents of messages sent, although it claims that it would take a tremendous amount of legal paperwork from various legal systems around the world for any of it to be accessed.
Telegram’s Secret Chats feature, however, does use the more secure E2E encryption method, although it uses a closed-sourced proprietary protocol which experts have so far been unable to analyze or rate (meaning that no one really knows just how secure it is).
There is a built-in passcode lock feature with fingerprint security on the Telegram mobile app.
User Data Collected:
Telegram only collects and stores three items from its users:
1. Contact information
2. Phone number
3. User ID
Signal is the youngest name on this list, and was created by the Signal Foundation upon open-source protocols with extremely secure encryption methods. It’s regarded as the most secure among the three, although it may not have some of the cool social features found on the others.
Signal has all the basic features for direct messaging enabled, including the option to send media, contacts, and location, although file size limits vary depend on what you’re sending. Images are capped at 6MB, while video, audio, and documents are capped at 100MB.
It has a disappearing chat feature that allows messages to disappear any time between five seconds to seven days, and it has the option to send a one-time viewable image that disappears after the recipient views it once.
Signal allows for chat groups up to 1,000 participants, with voice and video calling up to five people allowed.
It can’t be used on a browser, but does have dedicated clients for desktop.
Signal allows only local backups, and does not backup content on the cloud.
There is a feature on Signal called “Note to Self” which allows users to basically chat with themselves, and use it very much like a personal notepad.
There is also an incognito mode for the keyboard, and the ability to delete old messages quickly.
While it does not have as many customization options like its rivals (such as stickers and wallpapers), Signal’s developers aim to introduce some of these in the near future.
Signal’s security measures are deemed the best out of the three, and for a good reason.
For starters, it uses the highly-rated Signal Protocol to perform E2E encryption for every single message and call that passes through its servers.
Additionally, it also encrypts message metadata – something WhatsApp has failed to do – which basically means that absolutely no information regarding a message (including time and place sent) can be intercepted externally.
This is presented in the feature called Sealed Sender, which is an ultra-secret mode of messaging that prevents even Signal from knowing the identities of the sender and receiver and any associated information.
Signal also allows calls made to be relayed from its servers, acting as a sort of virtual private network (VPN) for calls and ensuring a high level of privacy.
There is also the option to block recipients from taking screenshots of a message, and also a feature to allow faces on photos to be blurred before they’re sent.
2FA security is also supported, as is the ability to lock messages with a PIN code or fingerprints.
User Data Collected:
Signal collects only one thing from its users: their phone number.
Conclusions and TL;DR
There are many things to consider when trying to decide on which of these three to pick. Between security, features, and the reputation of each company, there are various ways you might swing when making your decision.
Ultimately, it all depends on what you prioritize the most.
WhatsApp has a solid foundation with plenty of the basic chat features done right. Its security is top-notch, and you probably have almost all of your contacts already settled on the platform. It also does have an established business platform used by many companies.
However, its parent company’s attitude towards user privacy and data collection is becoming more worrying, and you might soon find you and your contacts seeking a move to a different platform soon.
Stick with WhatsApp if you want: Established stability and a large user base.
Telegram isn’t as secure as either WhatsApp or Signal, but it boasts a crazy amount of features and some pretty interesting advantages over its competitors. Channels and bots make it a great option for managing large amounts of recipients, and the platform is finding more popularity with businesses, too.
If you’re looking for an option with plenty of features and aren’t too concerned about the security of your messages (you probably aren’t a covert field agent, anyway), Telegram will prove a pretty good choice.
Go with Telegram if you want: Plenty of cool and innovative chat features.
Signal boasts the highest security out of the three, but it may lack in some departments due to its relative lack of establishment. You won’t find bots and dedicated broadcast channels like on Telegram, and it still doesn’t have as many social features like WhatsApp does.
But many people are already flocking towards it, and if you’re willing to wait and give the platform a chance, you might see it transform into something worthy of being your primary messaging app.
Go with Signal if you want: The absolute best security and privacy from any messaging app out there.
ที่มา : Mashable