News that WhatsApp is sharing more data with Facebook (the owner) has led to a stampede of people moving to more private alternatives. But which – Signal or Telegram?
Secure messaging is an important way to safely and quickly exchange any type of file or document. Even if you’re not interested in encryption, instant messaging is fast, direct and without the low file size limit of email.
Our ebook Beating Bots, Spies & Cock-ups – Safely & securely send files and documents goes into detail about which messaging services are secure, how to use them and how to deal with files larger than the file size limits.
What’s wrong with WhatsApp?
Facebook will be getting access to personal data that’s been collected by WhatsApp than in the past. It’s the sort of information ‘meta-data’ that Facebook said they would not get when they bought WhatsApp. Facebook will know about:
- Location – the current IP address, which is an indicator of the your location.
- Phone – details about your device, make, model, carrier etc.
- Name and phone number – plus anything else given at registration.
That might not seem like a big deal, however Facebook can sell that info or combine it with other personal information they have collected or purchased.
Facebook wants to merge your WhatsApp data with other details to let their business customers message and sell to WhatsApp users.
WhatsApp introduced this as a change in their terms & conditions. If you want to continue using WhatsApp after 15 May 2021 (changed from 8 February) then you must let them share your info with others.
This applies worldwide except the EU and UK which have tougher privacy laws.
WhatsApp continues to be secure. Messages, photos and files are fully encrypted, sent directly to the recipient.
But it won’t be as private, which is why millions of people are moving away from WhatsApp to alternative services.
There are two main alternatives to WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram.
Office Watch’s recommendation has been Signal for some time. It’s the most private and secure option available.
All three are similar services with apps for Apple and Android devices plus desktop extensions for Windows and Mac.
The big difference between Signal and Telegram is the encryption. The algorithms and tech used to make your messages secure and only readable by your intended recipients.
Signal is the clear winner in the encryption stakes. Their technology is licensed to all the major messaging services including Microsoft, Facebook and, yes, WhatsApp.
Signal encryption applies to all messages and is open-source. That’s a good thing because anyone can check the code for mistakes or ‘backdoors’ (ways to read messages).
Signal doesn’t share any data with others because they don’t keep any. The company is VERY privacy conscious and only stores the bare minimum of information about users.
Signal is very similar to WhatsApp in how the app works. If you’re used to WhatsApp, Signal isn’t a major change.
Telegram is also very secure but only if you use their ‘secret chat’ option. Even then it’s hard to say how secure the messages are. Their encryption system is proprietary and not fully available for examination.
That’s why most experts in privacy and encryption recommend Signal. That includes Edward Snowden, you might not agree with him, but he knows about Internet privacy!
Comparing Signal and Telegram
A quick summary of Signal and Telegram vs WhatsApp.
The only compelling reason to use Telegram is their very large file size limit, 2GB.
Signal’s 100MB limit could be better but it’s enough for most people. Few Word, Excel or PowerPoint docs are over 100MB. There are workarounds to that limit as detailed in Beating Bots, Spies & Cock-ups – Safely & securely send files and documents
Switching from WhatsApp to Signal or Telegram
A lot of the advice out there assumes people can totally switch from WhatsApp to another service. That’s ideal but not at all practical.
It’s hard to convince people to switch from an app they know and most folks will stick with WhatsApp, not wanting the bother of moving.
Each of the apps WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram can be running on a device. Sure, that’s not ideal but it’s possible.
The practical option is to start using Signal or Telegram alongside WhatsApp. Let people know you’re moving to another service and would prefer to message that way.
When you start Signal, it will show other users in your contact list who also use Signal. That’s done by matching phone numbers. You might find other people you know are already Signal users.
Beating Bots, Spies & Cock-ups – Safely & securely send files and documents is our book with all the tricks for privately exchanging files of any size via email, messaging or cloud services.
Forbes has a good summary of the WhatsApp problem including a comparison of the Apple privacy labels for each service. WhatsApp has 16 labels, Telegram has 3 and Signal has none!