Spike in new privacy-conscious users disrupt Signal’s servers

(Image credit: Signal)

Awareness around personal data privacy has been at an all-time high globally with users now extremely conscious of what sort of data is being collected by technology companies and most importantly how that information is being used.

This insatiable hunger to collect data prompted users to look beyond WhatsApp and caused a service disruption at Signal, a privacy-focused free WhatsApp alternative. In a Twitter post, the company said it was experiencing a spike in the new user signup and as a result “verification codes are currently delayed across several providers.”

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While the issue was sorted out quickly and the company clarified that the new user signup process is working seamlessly again. This came as part of yet another Twitter post

The information comes close on the heels of reports, quoting Apple's Privacy labels, that suggested Signal to be the least data hungry amongst all internet messengers.

With the recent policy update, WhatsApp has again reopened the debate about how much of user data is too much. Of course, we believe that debate was never shut, in the first place. Now, the Facebook-owned messaging platform has clearly gone too far by suggesting that data it collected would be shared with its parent and those not in favour may just leave.  

They also clarified that all the data collected by WhatsApp/Facebook will be offered as insights to advertisers to help them target their products to the relevant user base. All in all, you’re paying with your data for the free messaging service offered by Facebook.

Now this update has resulted in users looking to find ways to exit Facebook’s ecosystem and hence Signal, which is the backbone of WhatsApp’s end-to-end data encryption, has become an overnight favourite.

Signal can also partially blame (or credit) Elon Musk who has been a critic of Facebook’s policies. He yesterday, without naming Facebook or WhatsApp, tweeted “Use Signal.” This tweet coupled with the frenzy around the updated policy had a spiralling effect and resulted in a massive spike of traffic towards Signal.

Signal vs WhatsApp

The massive amount of information that brands like Google, Amazon, Facebook etc have about us is a matter of concern. They know everything including your frequent locations, your shopping habits, your likes and dislikes, hobbies, political affiliations etc and much more.

Talking specifically about Facebook, it offers services including the Facebook platform, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp, easily over a billion people actively using its services at any given point. This gives the platform a massive amount of influence and ability to control user behaviour - from their shopping to their political allegiance to electoral choices. 

Whatsapp, which has over 2 billion users globally and over 400 million in India, offers services like messaging, audio and video calls, groups, group voice and video calls, WhatsApp Pay and more. It is one of the most used messaging apps in the country and will start tracking your calls, messages, group activities and even status posts.

On the other hand, Signal is owned by Signal Incorporation end-to-end encryption service provider. It has an uncluttered and easy-to-use interface that is preferred by various users. Talking about features, this open-source application was probably among the first few to introduce disappearing messages back in 2016.

It does not link the user profile with any personal identifier details and offers almost all the features that WhatsApp offers apart from a few obvious ones like payment services and video calls.

Signal’s encrypted messaging protocol is considered of the highest standard and has been used by companies like Google, Microsoft and even WhatsApp, hence, data security is never a concern with Signal.

In the end, when it comes to choosing between protecting your data or using the most popular messaging platform - the choice depends on the individual.

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Jitendra Soni

Jitendra has been working in the Internet Industry for the last 7 years now and has written about a wide range of topics including gadgets, smartphones, reviews, games, software, apps, deep tech, AI, and consumer electronics.