Signal: The private messaging app everyone is talking about

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Signal, a private messaging app, is the talk of the town. 

The app saw a surge in downloads after popular messaging platform WhatsApp rolled out its new terms of services for its users, asking them to agree to its revised policies before February 8 or permanently lose their account. 

The new update is regarding how it processes user data and is said to partner with Facebook to offer seamless integrations across the multiple products of the social media giant.

Millions of people are outraged by the latest change in WhatsApp Terms and its intrusion into privacy. 

In the wake of this, cross-platform encrypted messaging service, Signal has climbed to the top spot in the free apps category of the App Store in multiple countries, including India.

It became the top downloaded app in countries like Germany, France, Austria, Finland, Hong Kong, and Switzerland as well.

But this app ain't a new one in the market. Signal has been around from 2013. It is developed by the Signal Foundation and Signal Messenger LLC which was created by WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton and Marlinspike. It is said to be a non-profit company.

Like WhatsApp, Signal allows users to send end-to-end encrypted group, text, picture, and audio and video messages, and make encrypted audio and video calls.

Data collected

With almost all options that were available in WhatsApp, Signal is not only about offering end-to-end encryption but also chooses to collect minimal data from the users.

To begin an account, the only data that is said to be collected by the app is the user's contact information. According to its privacy policy, no third-party has access to any data about the user from the messaging app. 

But the app also mentions that it may share some information with third parties, which provide the verification code. It also notes that if a user relies on third-Party Services like “YouTube, Spotify, Giphy and other services in connection with our Services, their Terms and Privacy Policies govern your use of those services.” However, it makes clear that none of the data is monetised for any purposes.  

Privacy first 

Unlike WhatsApp, Signal doesn't let a user to be added into any group without his/her permission. Users will be sent an invite and they can choose to accept the invite to join the Group, unlike WhatsApp where someone who has your contact can often add you straight to a group.

Signal has other privacy-focused features too. Signal’s privacy settings have an option of ‘Relay Calls’ where a user can make a call through a Signal server to avoid revealing ones IP address to the person you are calling. 

However, users flocking into this new app should know that once you lose/change phones, the app will have to be set up once again on the new device and all previous chats will be gone. All messages, pictures, files, and other contents are stored locally on your device. If you have your old device, you can transfer the data, but otherwise cannot be restored.

From the reaction of people against the new privacy norms set by Facebook-owned WhatsApp, one thing has been clear. In this age where the intrusion of privacy is a huge deal, users are not letting themselves to be tagged as products where companies sell their data for business purposes.

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