After the announcement of messaging app Whatsapp that it would be sharing users’ personal data with Facebook, its competitors Telegram and Signal are basking in the rapid increase of downloads as people switch platforms.
On Wednesday (Jan 6) Whatsapp announced through a user notification it would be changing its terms of service, forcing users to share personal data such as phone numbers and locations with Facebook, its parent company.
Furthermore, the messaging app that prides itself in being an encrypted, privacy-focused service, noted its users would have to agree to the changes before Feb 8 or lose access to the app.
The news prompted many to delete the app and switch to other, more secure messaging apps such as Telegram and Signal.
Prominent public figures such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk joined the call to switch services. He tweeted “Use Signal” on Jan 7. “Signal and Telegram are now better alternatives if you are concerned about your privacy,” tweeted TechCrunch editor Mike Butcher.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 7, 2021
WhatsApp will share its users' personal information, including phone numbers, IP addresses, contacts, & more with Facebook from Feb. 8, according to the new T&Cs. No opt-out. The only way to object is to leave the service & move to a service like Signal or Telegram. https://t.co/FbGcq5T3JB
— Mike Butcher (@mikebutcher) January 6, 2021
He attached screenshots comparing the platforms, including Facebook Messenger, and their privacy statements.
Signal and Telegram are now better alternatives if you are concerned about your privacy. Here’s what a Facebook wants out of you on WhatsApp and it’s own site: pic.twitter.com/uBN5g9ufgx
— Mike Butcher (@mikebutcher) January 7, 2021
In response to the uproar, WhatsApp released a new FAQ page to its website, outlining its user privacy stance. It also took to Twitter to upload an infograph explaining the extent of the changes.
“We want to address some rumors and be 100% clear we continue to protect your private messages with end-to-end encryption,” said WhatsApp.
We want to address some rumors and be 100% clear we continue to protect your private messages with end-to-end encryption. pic.twitter.com/6qDnzQ98MP
— WhatsApp (@WhatsApp) January 12, 2021
Whatsapp has an estimated two billion users worldwide, making it the most popular messaging app, according to statista.com. It was purchased by Facebook in 2014 for US$19 billion.
With users feeling their privacy could be compromised, many took heed of trends and switched messaging apps. Signal and Telegram are among those experiencing a surge in downloads.
Signal saw a 4,200 per cent increase in its downloads with 7.5 million new users from Jan 6 to 10.
Simultaneously, Telegram released a notification message on Jan 13 announcing it has surpassed 500 million active users. “In the past 72 hours alone, more than 25 million new users from around the world joined Telegram.”
According to Business Insider, the biggest growth market for both apps was India. Signal and Telegram had 2.3 and 1.5 million downloads, respectively, in India alone. Signal has been tweeting “Look at what you’ve done” followed by a country’s flag to show appreciation to its new users.
Look at what you've done. 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/0YuqyZXtgP
— Signal (@signalapp) January 8, 2021
Signal currently holds first place as the most secure messaging platform, as reported by getstream.io. Telegram comes in fourth while Whatsapp in fifth.
In Singapore, WhatsApp has remained the most-used messaging platform. However, Signal, Telegram, WeChat and Line are a few other options free to download.