This has led users to look for alternatives to WhatsApp. Two messaging services, Signal and Telegram have been named as great alternatives because they are open source, which means their source code can be looked at by developers. Signal, in particular, is lauded because it refuses to share meta data of its users. Signal was also endorsed publicly by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, driving heavy engagement with his tweet on social media and influencing several users to make the switch to Signal.
What is metadata and why its important?
While WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption for its messages, it will now offer Facebook a free reign on the metadata of your instant messages.
Ritesh Bhatia, Cyber Security Consultant, and founder of V4WEB Cybersecurity describes metadata as being an important pointer to the indicator of determining the context of messages. "While your chats on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted, but the metadata is not. And that information can be sold and shared by Facebook to advertisers. WhatsApp's metadata tracks important information, like which contact are you calling, the location of the call placed, whether you called using wifi or your cellular data, call duration, group names, group description and a lot more."
Metadata can leave traces of your conversation, and this information can be extremely useful to advertisers.
"Just imagine you are in a group that's spouting anti-government conversation. Facebook can see how active you are on the group, how often you post," says Bhatia. But its not just that, it can be also be misused by fascist governments to keep an eye on its citizens if Facebook provides this information to them.
Edward Snowden cybersecurity activist switched to Signal for this very reason, it doesn't leave any traces of your conversation.
The European Commission also pushed its employees to switch to Signal for this reason.
Signal makes sure it offers end-to-end encryption and also makes sure that your metadata remains safe. The only other person who knows what you are sending and to whom is the recipient of the message.
While WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted, the backup of chats on iCloud and Google Drive makes it easy for potential hacking and harvesting of data. Telegram backs up its chats on their own cloud, giving the company access to its information. But Telegram has also been under scanner in the past for not sharing private messages of its users even when legal cases are involved.
Signal, by comparison, prides itself on complete privacy.
Here's a comparison of the security features
Features can make or break an app. Here's how Signal and Telegram fare in comparison to WhatsApp
Checking these few boxes becomes important for user experience.
The price of privacy
Signal's focus on privacy is a huge plus point.
But critics of large technology platforms have also talked about the dangers of privacy being misused. They allege that the atmosphere of complete privacy for users also festers an environment where illicit transactions can go on, there's no way that the concerned authorities can trace them back.
A trend in late 2019 noted how drug dealers, crypto-currency traders were using Signal thanks to its focus on complete privacy. Telegram, meanwhile is already under the scanner because of the presence of notorious robot drug dealers, pornography channels, and refusal to support law enforcement agencies in India in the past.
Updated On: 2021-01-13T15:17:41+05:30