What about WhatsApp privacy? What data does the app actually store? And is Signal really as privacy conscious as it is said? In this article we analyze the privacy policies of the most popular chat apps of the moment: WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram.
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Privacy of WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram
After all, we share joys and sorrows through these applications. Chat apps are therefore potentially an almost inexhaustible source of personal information, which is interesting in times when data is called the ‘new gold’.
The analysis below is based on privacy labels, the ‘health cards’ introduced by Apple that show how apps in the App Store deal with your privacy. App makers must indicate exactly whether your data is collected and for what purpose. Based on this, you can create the ‘privacy ranking’ below.
1. Signal and privacy
Signal is taking full advantage of the turbulent situation surrounding WhatsApp. The privacy-conscious chat app is experiencing golden times as many people are currently making the switch. That is not a bad choice when you look at privacy. Signal only needs one thing from you: a phone number.
This is used to create your profile. That said, your phone number is not linked to your identity. In other words, Signal does not use your phone number to create a user profile and then earn money from it through advertisements. On the contrary. The app ‘earns’ from donations.
This makes Signal a very privacy conscious chat app. However, it is not perfect. After all, you still have to provide a phone number to use the app. Apart from that, the app does little wrong in terms of privacy.
Signal encrypts chats, the source code is public and can therefore be checked by everyone and you can protect the app with a password. Also cool: you can have messages automatically disappear almost immediately after arrival.
Signal: private messaging app
Signal Messenger, LLC
2. Telegram and privacy
Telegram is also a privacy-conscious chat app, but it does collect more data than Signal. With the originally Russian WhatsApp replacement, the data is linked to your identity. Plus, Telegram wants to learn more about you than Signal.
The chat app does not only collect your name and telephone number, but also your contact list. This so-called ‘metadata’ (comparable to a log) then ends up on Telegram’s servers. The chat app does not see what is in your messages, but it does see that you are in contact with others and at what time this happens.
It is also a pity that Telegram does not encrypt messages by default. You have to activate this option yourself. If you don’t do this, the content of chats could (in theory) be intercepted by others. Furthermore, Telegram has regularly made negative pressures in the past due to their encryption protocol. This could be cracked.
3. WhatsApp and privacy
WhatsApp is by far the most popular chat app in our country, but it still has plenty to learn in terms of privacy. There are more than twenty cups under the privacy label in the App Store. WhatsApp keeps track of your location, knows how you use the app and gains insight into your contact list. This data is also linked to your personal identity.
In its own words, the app does this for ‘advertising purposes’ and to improve the app. WhatsApp also collects your telephone number, purchase history (if you shop via the app), any payment details, email address and information about your smartphone.
Alternatives to WhatsApp
The most popular alternatives to WhatsApp have been discussed above: Signal and Telegram. Both apps are clearly taking advantage of WhatsApp’s noisy situation, but they are by no means the only replacements. Apps like Surespot, Threema, and iMessage (from Apple) are also excellent and more privacy-conscious ways to stay in touch with family and friends.