WhatsApp is the most popular communications application on the planet, with over two billion users using it for messaging. Bought by Facebook in 2014, the service popularized the use of end-to-end encryption in everyday communications, introducing it as the default for messaging in 2016.
To do this, it has partnered with Moxy Marlinspike’s Open Whisper Systems to integrate the encrypted messaging protocol. Microsoft and Google have also used the protocol, which is widely regarded as the gold standard in encrypted communications.
Now, Open Whisper Systems exists as Signal Messenger, LLC and is part of the Signal Foundation. This rebranding made the foundation put more effort into its own application. The Signal Foundation’s flagship Signal application provides fully secure and easy-to-use communications. It has direct and group messaging, as well as one-to-one audio and video chat.
That’s why you should use Signal for any conversation where privacy matters.
Signal has several updated security features
The new security features come first on Signal . For example, Signal has messages that disappear – which are automatically deleted after a certain period of time – from 2016.
Other features that WhatsApp users did not have include viewed messages, encrypted profiles, an incognito keyboard switch for Android and backups.
Signal also has a slightly wider range of clients and is dedicated to Linux desktop users.
Signal is open source
All Signal source code is published for anyone to review and use under a GPLv3 client license and an AGPLv3 server license.
This means that you can see what is happening inside it or, more useful, you rely on the specialized expertise of the people who examine the code and know exactly what they are looking for.
Signal has less potential for hidden vulnerabilities than WhatsApp
Being a larger platform, WhatsApp is more prone to malicious actors and could take longer until dangerous vulnerabilities are detected. Any application can and will eventually suffer from vulnerabilities – Signal has solved some of them.
But the closed source code of WhatsApp means that there are a lot of potential targets that remain unknown until they are exploited.
You can run your own Signal server
Another advantage of open source software is that you can play with it. It is designed as a mass communication platform, but it is quite difficult to build.
But if you think about it technically, you can learn a lot about how a system works by building a test instance. Guides are available to help users get a Signal server up and running.
How much can you trust Facebook, the company that owns WhatsApp?
Perhaps the most compelling reason to use Signal is that Facebook has a problem respecting the privacy of its users . Facebook has a terrible history when it comes to collecting and manipulating data, from the Cambridge Analytica business to its practice of sharing user data with phone manufacturers.
It has already been proven that Facebook cannot trust the data of WhatsApp users who, according to EU law, should have remained private. In 2017, European regulators took action against Facebook for sharing the phone numbers of WhatsApp users with its social network Facebook, for advertising purposes. Facebook has strongly violated data protection regulations.
Moreover, there is the desire of Facebook to insert ads and commercial messages in WhatsApp and potentially compromise its security. It is unclear yet what will eventually happen to the WhatsApp messaging service when Facebook combines WhatsApp with Instagram and Messenger messaging, but it goes without saying that it poses a real danger to the privacy of your personal data.