Why I’m moving off WhatsApp to Signal and Telegram

On 7 February 2021 I’m deleting WhatsApp from all my devices and using either Signal or, as my second choice for now, Telegram. You’ll have to find me there. Here’s why.

Basically, it’s all about privacy. WhatsApp bad. Signal and Telegram good.

When WhatsApp was first developed in 2009, it did have a strong focus on privacy. But since the company was bought by Facebook in 2014, that focus is gone. And it’s getting worse.

WhatsApp is introducing a new “privacy” policy that will allow it to “share” user data with its parent company Facebook, and Facebook has even worse privacy practices.

If you use an iPhone or an iPad or a Mac, Apple now lists all the ways that apps track you and use your data. Check out these three lists for Apple’s iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook’s Messenger. Get ready to scroll a long way down.

Comparison of data sharing in the apps Apple iMessage (left), WhatsApp (centre), and Facebook Messenger (right). (Screenshots: Stilgherrian)

Now look at Signal and Telegram. It’s a world of difference.

Comparison of data sharing in the apps Signal (left) and Telegram (right). (Screenshots: Stilgherrian)

Right now Signal and Telegram are two of the most private and secure messaging apps.

I like Signal Private Messenger because it’s run by people with serious experience, including Moxie Marlinspike. He co-wrote the secure messaging system that pretty much all these apps use these days.

The only thing Signal knows about you is your phone number. It doesn’t know who you are, and it doesn’t track you.

Signal is funded by a non-profit organisation in the US.

Some people might prefer Telegram Messenger. It knows a little more about you, like your name. You can set a username, though, which means people can find you without you having to give them your phone number.

Telegram is also prettier, and now it can bring across your WhatsApp messages. Handy.

(There are other ways to extract your WhatsApp messages, and I suspect that Signal will also be able to do this soon.)

Telegram is run by brothers Pavel and Nikolai Durov, originally from St Petersburg in Russia but now based in Dubai. They say they’re going to introduce “monetisation” in 2021, which I guess means they’ll start charging money.

I will be using both Signal (first choice) and Telegram (second choice). There are other options, but I’m not using them for now.

WhatsApp has pushed back the starting date of their new policy until May, but 8 February 2021 was their original plan so I’m sticking to that timeline. Who needs all that tracking anyway?

So, from 7 February 2021 I’ll see you on Signal or Telegram. But not on WhatsApp.

Update 7 February 2021: WhatsApp’s “growth and privacy” lead Uzma Barlaskar tweeted me a link to a Washington Post story, I checked Apple’s new privacy ‘nutrition labels.’ Many were false. Indeed, many of the labels that were tested were incomplete. But nowhere were Signal or Telegram mentioned.

Really, Uzma? You’re going with a hand-wavey “Yeah but some people aren’t honest” as the corporate line? Lol. A weird combination of non-specific FUD and “At least where telling you we’re collecting data way beyond what’s necessary”. Nah, you still get deleted today.