WhatsApp users across the globe have come out criticising the app as trying to arm-twist its users into giving consent to sharing their WhatsApp data with its’s parent company Facebook and its subsidiaries. Also Read - WhatsApp multi-device support available for Android, iOS users: How to enable the setting
There has been an online uproar where people are considering migrating to other messaging platforms where they won’t have to worry about their data being shared on other platforms. Telegram and Signal seem to be the most sought after options. Also Read - How to send disappearing photos and videos on WhatsApp in a few simple steps
So what do these alternatives to WhatsApp offer in terms of features and security and should you switch to these apps? Let’s take a look.
End-to-end encryption (E2E)
WhatsApp touts to be one of the safest messaging applications on the planet and indeed it is. WhatsApp comes with E2E that ensures that only the recipient and the sender can read the message and not even WhatsApp can read it. More interestingly, the encryption tool that WhatsApp uses has been developed by the same team that made Signal.
While messages on WhatsApp are encrypted, messages backed up on the cloud are not and neither is the metadata of the app. Basically, this means that information associated with time and location of the messages are not encrypted.
Telegram does not offer E2E rather uses something the company calls Client-Server encryption. This means that in theory, Telegram has access to the contents of the messages being sent via its platform but the company claims that it would involve tons of legal paperwork to read these messages. Telegram’s ‘Secret Chat’ option, however, offers E2E.
Signal is the most-secure app out of the three and it not only offers E2E but also doesn’t back up anything on the cloud so there is absolutely no way that the messages can be compromised (unless the device is compromised). Additionally, it also encrypts the metadata of the message so no one can track the location and the time of the message being sent or received.
Signal also allows users to send and receive messages without revealing the identities of both via a Sealed Senser feature.
All three platforms offer vanishing messages feature. With this feature, all the messages you send in this mode will disappear after a certain point of time. These messages do not get backed up on the device nor the cloud which means it is the safest way to interact.
You also need to remember that in WhatsApp, users get the option to save a message in ‘Disappearing Messages’ mode before the content is automatically deleted.
WhatsApp comes with an auto cloud backup feature that backs up your chats on third-party cloud services like Google and iCloud for free. You have the option of disabling the backup option in WhatsApp in the app’s Settings.
Telegram does not offer backups rather all of its chats are synced with its own cloud and channels content between devices.
Signal, on the other hand, does not offer any form of cloud backup and stores all the content locally on the device. The only disadvantage with this is that if your device is lost or you switch the phone you won’t be able to recover your old messages as they are stored locally.
Group chat and security
WhatsApp offers group support for up to 256 people with the option of making voice or video calls with 8 people simultaneously. All of the messages on groups are E2E and also get backed up on the cloud.
Telegram offers its users the option to connect with a larger group with the option of accommodating up to 200,000 people in a group. It also has a feature where only the admin can send a message to the group’s participants. This is a good feature for business and news portals to share updates and other information.
The only downside to this is that Telegram doesn’t offer encryption for its messages in the groups.
Signal allows up to 1,000 participants in a group with voice and video calling for up to 5 people. It offers E2E for its group chats which are not backed up on the cloud.
All three apps come with an option to lock the app with the help of biometrics or pin.
While Telegram and WhatsApp offer support for the desktop, Signal does not have a browser version. Also, unlike on WhatsApp, Telegram users don’t need to have an active internet connection on their phone for their browser version to work.
A great security feature that Signal offers is that it gives users the option to block recipients from taking screenshots of a chat, and also a gives and option to allow faces on photos to be blurred before they’re sent.
Among the three, WhatsApp collects the most amount of data from its users. Here’s a list of what information WhatsApp collects:
-Performance and diagnostics
-Various other user-related information
Telegram, on the other hand, collects limited information about its users like:
Signal does not collect any other information apart from the user’s phone number.
Which is best for you?
The fact that WhatsApp already has a solid foundation and a userbase in the billions gives it the upper hand advantage. Users are already comfortable with the ecosystem and it offers top-notch security for its chats.
What works against WhatsApp is its parent company’s attitude towards privacy and user data and not giving its users the option to not share its data on other platforms. The only reason you should stick with WhatsApp is if you don’t want the inconvenience of asking your contacts to switch to other messaging apps and enjoy the stability that WhatsApp offers.
Telegram isn’t as secure as its competitors in this lineup but offers a host of other features that WhatsApp and Signal don’t. If you aren’t that concerned about your security and want to target a larger audience then Telegram is the app for you.
Signal is the best option for people who want the absolute best security and privacy. It doesn’t store any data and that is one of the reasons that many people are flocking towards the app. If WhatsApp is obstinate on sharing its users’ data, Signal is the best option for you.