The secure messaging app Signal has been around for years. But thanks to heightened awareness of the need for privacy the app recently
Known for its end-to-end encryption and independent structure as a non-profit organization run by a foundation — not a big tech company — Signal has previously been the communication method of choice for activists, people in the hacker community, and others concerned about privacy.
So, thinking about joining Signal? Bottom line: If you care about privacy, it’s a good idea. Here’s what you need to know.
OK, so what is Signal?
Signal is a free, privacy-focused messaging and voice talk app you can use on
Is the Signal app secure?
Communications on Signal are end-to-end encrypted, which means only the people in messages can see the content of those messages — not even the company itself. Even sticker packs get
Signal created the
Is Signal really private?
Yes — and that privacy goes beyond the fact that the content of your messages is encrypted. You can set messages to disappear after certain customizable time frames. Plus, Signal collects virtually no data on its users. The only information you give the app is your phone number, and the company is even
Part of the reason it collects no data is because Signal is a non-profit organization, not a for-profit company. It has no advertising, so no incentive to track users. Instead, it’s funded by grants and private investors — one of whom had a huge personal interest in making a privacy-oriented platform. Though a
Signal vs. WhatsApp (and other messaging apps).
Both Signal and WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted using the same technology. That means the content of the messages you send and calls you have are both private. However, Facebook collects lots of other information in the form of usage statistics, metadata, and more. And there’s no longer a way to opt out.
Signal does not have as many fancy customization features as WhatsApp, like backgrounds. But when it comes to true privacy, there is no comparison.
You can see a full list of alternatives to Facebook-owned messaging services
Another app rising in popularity is Telegram. Telegram says it’s also all about privacy, but it actually has plenty of downsides. Messages on Telegram are not truly end-to-end encrypted by default. Plus, the fact that private groups are unlimited in size, can be joined via a link, and are explicitly not moderated has made it a
How to join Signal
Once you download the latest version of the app, you’ll have to register your phone number. Then you’ll receive an SMS message with a verification code. From there, you’ll have a Signal contact list that will show you all of the contacts saved in your phone that are on Signal. You can securely text, voice, and video chat any of them, and you can manually add phone numbers of people not saved in your contacts, too. Voila, you’re Signaling!
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“This story was originally published in January 2021 and updated in July 2021.”