Lifestyle  Technology   ·   14 Jan   ·   06:01 PM   ·   3 minutes Read

Singaporeans Fret Over Privacy: Will Signal or Telegram Triumph?

  
Credit: indianexpress, A Good Citizen

WhatsApp announced changes in their privacy policy earlier this January, leading to Signal and Telegram topping the charts on the App store worldwide. Yes, including Singapore! Come 8 February, Singaporeans will have decide whether they are on board with WhatsApp’s new privacy policy, or stop using it altogether as the changes take effect.

Credit: Screengrab from iPhone

Why Like That?

Facebook has a bad reputation when it comes to breaking promises and privacy.

Remember how #DeleteFacebook trended and became a movement after the Cambridge Analytica scandal? And how people quit Facebook in droves after realizing that they could not entrust their data to Facebook?

Remember how everybody then flocked to Instagram? Well, since Facebook owns Instagram as of 2012, it wasn’t really a huge deal for them. And as of 2014, WhatsApp also became part of the Facebook family.

Facebook’s habit of buying out its competitors means it is currently facing two lawsuits over its anti-competitive practices.

It also means that public trust in Facebook is at an all-time low.

Credit: u/WhoDidUSSliberty

Telegram

A lot of Singaporeans have already made the switch to Telegram, even before 2021.

Set up in 2014 by brothers Nikolai Durov and Pavel Durov, Telegram also has connections to big social media – in Russia. The brothers are also the founders of Russian social network, VK.

In Singapore, Telegram’s popularity is such that it has reach across several demographics, from government agencies, to lobang groups and even thirsty criminals.

Credit: @ab_siven

Since 14 December 2020, Apple’s app store makes a point of showing you what data each app collects. It is a very transparent system, since anybody with access to the app store can look for an app and take a look at its App Privacy section.

Telegram users will be happy to know that when it comes to harvesting your information, Telegram is in pretty good standing.

Just your Contact Information, Identifiers and Contacts are logged.

This is as opposed to WhatsApp, which logs all of that, in addition to your:

– Purchases
– Financial Info
– Location
– Usage Data
– Diagnostics
– User Content

Credit: digideutsche

In case you’re not familiar with Apple’s terminology, you can check out this handy page here, which tells you what each term means.

And yes, it does mean that WhatsApp can see your photos, purchases and location – which in turn means Facebook will also have access to the same information.

Signal

Before becoming Signal, the people behind Signal were already privacy and security conscious.

They were the ones who built the encryption protocol that WhatsApp adopted in 2018.

Credit: Signal

They are also big advocates of transparency. Signal is the only app out of three that is truly open-source. This means its code can be reviewed by anybody.

This has made Signal a trusted way to communicate, so much so that it became the app of choice for activists worldwide, such as Black Lives Matter activists in the United States and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.

Credit: The Scotsman

The main people behind Signal are Moxie Marlinspike, formerly the head of security team at Twitter and Brian Acton, who left WhatsApp in 2017 after disagreements over how Facebook’s plans to monetize WhatsApp. Acton and Marlinspike started the Signal Foundation together.

Now for the most important bit: what information does Signal collect about you?

The answer is: your contact information.

That’s all.

The Bottom Line

Can I read your texts? | Credit: @kanethefreakindane

Encryption is important but it is not everything.

WhatsApp uses the same encryption Signal does – your texts are safe, whether they were sent by Signal or WhatsApp. Telegram also encrypts their texts with one big caveat. Telegram uses cloud technology for their default messages. Due to its nature, it is harder to make cloud technology secure.

In 2020, more than half of organisations that used cloud technology to store information experienced security incidents.

If it’s your privacy you’re worried about, it’s the data harvesting involved that should concern you.

Credit: icanhazcheezburger

WhatsApp and by extension, Facebook, may not be able to read your texts but they have access to a lot of other information. That information can be used to build a map of the user’s habits, such as the people they talk to, the websites they visit, the places they go to and so on. Think of the map of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, which Facebook is building to complete their picture of you.

Do you think WhatsApp is on its way out? Or is WhatsApp simply going to have to make space for more messaging apps? Tell us on our Facebook page.