WhatsApp is the world’s most popular messaging app with 1 billion users in 180 countries. However, the app’s newly announced privacy policies have caused a move to WhatsApp alternatives like Signal, Telegram, and AirSend. Users are leaving WhatsApp for other platforms primarily to protect their data privacy and safety.
What’s Happening with WhatsApp?
In 2014, data privacy experts expressed concern after Facebook acquired WhatsApp. This is because Facebook and its associated apps had experienced security issues resulting in the leakage of thousands of users’ information. At the time, WhatsApp addressed these concerns by saying that it would remain a stand-alone app that would continue to prioritize data security.
That is about to change.
In October of 2020, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that WhatsApp will be integrating with Facebook Messenger and Instagram to “function… like one connected interoperable system.”
The implementation of this change has caused data privacy and security-conscious users to leave WhatsApp in favor of other apps that promise more privacy and safety.
WhatsApp’s Privacy and Security Problems
WhatsApp provides users with end-to-end encryption, but its legal disclaimer says that the app collects and shares a large amount of user information with “the Facebook family of companies.” The information collected, and possibly shared, includes phone numbers, profile pictures, status updates, address books, payment data, and more. It also includes data such as IP addresses, ISPs and identifiers. This could potentially allow Facebook to locate any users who are on WhatsApp, Facebook, or Instagram.
In addition to preexisting privacy concerns, users are worried that WhatsApp’s security will also be compromised once it is integrated with Facebook Messenger and Instagram — apps that have experienced problems before. After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
What are the Alternatives?
Given the issues outlined above, WhatsApp users are flocking to alternatives that are more privacy and security-conscious. Here are the 4 best alternatives to WhatsApp that may be better equipped to maintain your privacy and data security.
Pros: Signal is a simple messaging app that is free, encrypted, and available on all mobile platforms as well as on desktop. Like WhatsApp, it provides voice/video calling in addition to messaging. A bonus feature is that users can set a time frame for automatic deletion so that messages disappear when users want them to.
Cons: The only downside to Signal is that it doesn’t come with animated emojis. You can import your own emojis into the app, though.
Pros: Based in Switzerland, Threema provides various features that increase user privacy and security. Messages are deleted after delivery; contacts and group information are stored on your phone, not in-app; and you can use a Threema ID instead of your phone number to connect with people. All messages, statuses, voice calls, and files are encrypted. And like Signal, Threema is available on all platforms.
Cons: You have to pay for it ($1.99 in the US).
Pros: Like Signal, AirSend is another free and simple way to safely send messages and have voice/video calls. It is available on all mobile platforms as well as desktop, and unlike Signal, AirSend comes with emojis. Bonus features include the ability to quickly share and organize files, take notes, and create to-do lists. And the app does not collect your data.
Cons: The app was designed to be a simple online workspace rather than a pure messaging app, so it may have more features than a messaging app user wants or needs.
Pros: Another alternative to WhatsApp, Telegram provides encryption for messaging and voice calls and the ability to automatically delete messages after a set time. The app is available across platforms, and also supports multimedia file sharing like AirSend.
Cons: An important thing to note is that your messages are not automatically encrypted in Telegram. This is a feature that must be enabled in your app settings.
Maintaining Your Data Privacy
If you want to continue having private conversations, you may want to consider using one of the 4 alternatives discussed above instead of WhatsApp. While the ultimate security consequences of WhatsApp’s merge with Facebook Messenger and Instagram are yet to be revealed, the app’s privacy issues are enough to warrant change.