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Should you switch to “Signal”

use Signal
“Use Signal” Elon Musk tweeted and it all started. Everyone is now talking about ‘Signal Private Messenger’ and suddenly within a week they are the #1 top free on the Google Play Store. Some people even misunderstood the real life Iron Man’s tweet and rallied to buy another stock named Signal that has nothing to do with the said private messenger resulting in 11708% growth of that unrelated company’s stock price.  

But why did Elon say “Use Signal”?

 

       The story began in 2014 when Facebook bought WhatsApp messenger for $19bn, which was their biggest acquisition till date. WhatsApp was then managed by a team of 50 people. Facebook still paid this large amount for this acquisition because of the market share that it had captured in all non-US markets in the direct messaging world and the potential that Facebook saw to integrate it with other Facebook services like Messenger and Instagram. Facebook’s own messenger had failed to capture a considerable market and the company did not want to fall behind in this sector. For the first few years after the acquisition, Facebook did not seem to be interfering with the operations at WhatsApp from the outside, but a few years later they launched ‘WhatsApp for Business’ app that let businesses create and verify their profiles and create product catalogue. They also eventually started dabbling in the ‘advertising on WhatsApp’ features. And then this January we saw this notice:

whatsapp

       Starting from February 8, 2021, you HAVE to agree to the new terms and Privacy policy to be able to use WhatsApp. What are these new changes? In one line: Facebook will now use the personal information of the WhatsApp users to sell more relevant ads to them on all Facebook company products. So currently you get ads on Facebook and Instagram based on your likes and searches, and from February, they will also use information they acquire from WhatsApp to better inform their advertisers on what you would be more likely to purchase.

So, is Facebook evil?

       It very well might be. But in this context, Only if you think doing business and making money is evil. Facebook charges no money, Instagram is free to use, WhatsApp messenger is also free for its users. Facebook needs to employ technology and manpower to operate it’s businesses, and that costs them money. So naturally, they will have to earn money from somewhere else if they don’t charge the customers. Facebook earns its money by selling ads. So does Google, that provides you with all the information in the world. When you are not paying money to use a service as a customer, you are selling your time and information instead. It’s a pure transaction between you and a company. “We trade our personal information to get access and convenience everyday.” So what Facebook does is not highly unusual at all. We have known this now for years and as we don’t have much of a choice in this technological era, we have been complying with it. Facebook’s new update intends to expand on their features by using the information they gather from WhatsApp for their complete suit of products, which will include ads served on Facebook, Instagram and any other platforms that they might start in the future. People worldwide are outraged by this update without considering how much data they have already surrendered with all these companies. Following the outrage Facebook had to clarify what will and won’t change after the new privacy policy, about which you can read here.

whatsapp-statement

       But this whole series of events led into some positive conversation about privacy which we must have, but as I have mentioned in my earlier article “Everyone likes to talk about privacy but no one wants to understand it”

Thing that we should understand and accept first is that we have always negotiated with our privacy in order to get access and that will not change overnight. We have surrendered out information to governments and corporations to give us services in return. The conversation we need to have is if the deal is worth it?


Is privacy that important

       There are a lot of ways that we can keep our information private. For example you can stop using the internet and most of your problems are solved. But it’s not a practical measure. There is some information like our financial details or medical details that by all means must be private and should not be used to sell you any ads at all. But is it really bad if the company sees that you like a certain type of comedy and helps one of the comedians to get their ads in your feed? Aren’t we better off with the ads relevant to us than some random ads popping up? Most people generally don’t care about privacy of their personal information; But when issues like this one pops up in the news all of a sudden they turn into keyboard warriors on Twitter and other social media, not realizing that they won’t have that voice and followers if they had not sacrificed their privacy to get on those platforms.

Privacy is a transaction issue not a pride issue.

       Privacy is a very serious topic and shouldn’t be taken lightly at all. If a company is gathering or trading user information without the consent or the knowledge of the user, the company must be punished. But the ignorance of the user is not the company’s responsibility. We should understand & audit which information we are willing to give away and what we are getting in return. If we don’t understand these things then we must reach out to people who can explain them to us. Considering all these thing, now let’s talk about “Signal Private Messenger”

What is Signal?

      Signal is a cross-platform encrypted messaging service developed by the Signal Foundation and Signal Messenger. It uses the Internet to send one-to-one and group messages, which can include files, voice notes, images and videos. So, it’s like WhatsApp, but the company claims to care about your privacy and is endorsed by people like Edward Snowden, Jack Dorsey and now Elon Musk. As Signal is run by a non-profit organisation they are not motivated to sell ads to their users and hence don’t need to collect data from its users.

So Should you switch to Signal? Absolutely!!


The real question here is can you switch to Signal? Let me explain! People use WhatsApp because of the ease of use, constant updates, strong technology backed by Facebook and of course the sheer number of users that you can communicate with. WhatsApp provides you with so many features that we take for granted which actually do infringe our privacy but provide ease in our daily lives. When switching to Signal, we should evaluate if we are ready to give up on those features. We are noticing a lot of articles popping up now that list out the features from WhatsApp that are missing in Signal. As the international support grows, the Signal app will also improve its features and technology, but it will sure take time. This is a most important concern in leaving WhatsApp for any other app. If more than 75% of your network doesn’t shift with you, you are going to have to keep on using WhatsApp too. .

Nobody can hear you in an empty room.

 

       The entire point of these social messaging platforms is to be more connected with your network. If your network is not on this new platform that you want to switch to, you will just be using multiple apps for some time and then switch back to WhatsApp when the trend settles down or when WhatsApp launches a set of more new features. (Remember how Instagram killed Snapchat with stories, or took over the TikTok audience with Reels? They know how to handle this stuff!)

So are all the efforts futile?

       Not at all! The events like this one put pressure on big companies like Facebook to think about users before taking any steps and that is essential to keep them in check. So those who can start using Signal or any other app should do that and try to take as many people over there with them as well. Even if there’s a little dent in Facebook’s bottom line after this incident, they’ll know that their user base will hold them accountable and there is a limit that they should not cross in terms of privacy. If you have any views on my article, please let me know on my social media!!

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