Data is power in today’s economy, with concerns on who has access to it dominating contemporary discourse. With our growing dependence on technology comes increasing threats to privacy and security. Whether it's browsing engines, social media, or messengers – different platforms monitor, collect, and monetize sensitive information about their users. Most of the time, the users are none the wiser.
In this article, we address the burning questions around Signal and what it means for the future of secure messaging.
What is Signal?
'Say Hello to Privacy' is the brand’s tagline and speaks to its USP. Signal is a messaging app available for Apple (iPhone and iPad), Android, Mac, and Linux devices. The app garnered interest because of Brian Acton, former co-founder of WhatsApp. Acton left the company in 2017 and donated $50 million to fund Signal. After leaving WhatsApp, Acton, along with current Signal CEO Moxie Marlinspike founded the Signal Foundation and Signal Messenger.
What Makes Signal Different?
Signal is a free service offering secure messaging, group chats, voice and video calls with end-to-end encryption. The app’s open-source Signal Protocol is a game-changer in implementing end-to-end encryption. Additionally, it goes a step further and also encrypts user metadata.
Why is metadata so important? Theoretically, anyone tapping into people’s communications can still gain access to user metadata despite end-to-end encryption. Metadata comprises information such as timings of chats, device identities, or who is chatting with whom. Protecting the privacy of our messages is critical but encrypting metadata is just as important.
What distinguishes Signal from other apps is its approach to user data. Signal only collects user phone numbers, while WhatsApp, for instance, is known to collate reams of information like user ID, phone numbers, device ID, email addresses, contacts, advertising data, and payment information.
Too Good to Be True?
Not quite, believes Signal COO Aruna Harder, in response to concerns about whether Signal can continue offering free services as its user base increases. Signal is a nonprofit with seemingly no vested interests in profits or selling user data. So as a non-profit, they simply 'need to break even' says Aruna Harder.
I Have Nothing to Hide
'I have nothing to hide' is a common stance with most people indifferent to data privacy. However, the average person should be worried about identity theft or social security numbers being leaked.
Additionally, users should never assume privacy despite end-to-end encryption. Most of us use keyboards that automatically predict and store text before an app like Signal can read it.
On a Parting Note
It is crucial to make a distinction between data security and data privacy. Security protects your data while privacy safeguards your identity. When choosing a messenger app, both components are critical.
At Transparency Networks we recognize the importance of mitigating security risks and making privacy a fundamental part of our organization’s DNA. Using an app with end-toend encryption is the best way to safeguard data and privacy. By using Signal, we’re aiming to further enhance our secure communications and strengthen a culture of trust in how we function every day.