How to switch from WhatsApp to Signal in 2021
Follow these easy steps to boost your online privacy with Signal, and reap the benefits of encrypted chats, calls and file sharing.
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Protecting your digital identity and information is a growing concern for many. Your right to privacy online is the same as it would be in the real world. However, as there are no physical restrictions on the Internet – it's on you to take the relevant precautions.
When it comes to communicating with friends and family, making the switch to the privacy-first secure messaging app Signal is seen by many to be a step in the right direction.
Read on to learn more about Signal and discover the quick steps for making the switch from WhatsApp.
Quick facts about Signal
- Signal is a free, secure messaging app that uses end-to-end encryption.
- It's open source, allowing anyone to scrutinise the software for any flaws and verify the encryption and app is secure.
- According to the organisation behind the app, it's not revenue-driven and claims its vision is to put personal privacy before profit.
- Figures from Business of Apps suggest that Signal's user base doubled from 20 million to 40 million between December 2020 and January 2021.
More on Signal
Signal's app has a number of very similar features to WhatsApp. It offers users the same capability to chat with individuals or groups. You can also share photos, videos and links with your contacts, and make free voice and video calls. Both apps offer end-to-end encryption – technology that ensures your communications and information remain confidential.
But it's Signal's reputation for privacy protection that's the driving force behind people switching over from WhatsApp. Unlike Facebook, who owns WhatsApp, the Signal Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that collects very little data about its users.
What are Signal's key privacy credentials?
Even though both messaging platforms offer many of the same features, users continue to download and install Signal in big numbers. The main difference between the two services is the perception of privacy. Signal has taken transparency to the next level by publishing the code that runs its app. This allows anyone to scrutinise the software for any flaws and verify the encryption and app is as secure as Signal claims.
Take advantage of enhanced security features
Signal illustrates its dedication to privacy with a few advanced features that are not available on WhatsApp. For example, it gives you the option to relay your calls through a Signal server so that you never reveal your location. It also offers the capability to set disappearing messages. This feature allows you to set the privacy settings for each contact. Furthermore, it improves the protection of your personal conversations by automatically deleting chat messages after they have been seen.
How to make the switch from WhatsApp to Signal
If you want to switch to Signal, you need to decide if you're going to continue using WhatsApp. There's nothing stopping you from using both simultaneously. If privacy is your primary concern, minimising your use of WhatsApp reduces the potential amount of data they could potentially share with Facebook. In some instances, you may need to run both services. Just one example would be if there's a critical WhatsApp neighbourhood watch group you need to monitor that isn't available on Signal.
Here are three key steps to take when you're making the switch from WhatsApp to Signal:
1. Install the app
2. Enrol your device and secure it
Once you have installed the app, open it, enter your mobile number, and click next to receive a text message containing a One Time Pin (OTP). After entering the OTP, Signal will ask you to enter your name and then prompt you to set up a PIN for additional security. At this point, you are active on Signal. You can now text your friends and family or invite them to join.
3. Add contacts
Once you have enrolled and secured your device, Signal will ask to access your contacts. It's likely you'll want to give it the relevant permission if you intend to use the app effectively. It'll automatically add any phone numbers associated with a Signal account to your Signal contact list. The app will also notify you when any of your other contacts join the platform.
Moving a WhatsApp group to Signal: A word of warning
Like WhatsApp, Signal gives you group chat functionality. Unfortunately, you cannot move a WhatsApp group to Signal and retain the chat history from that group. You can, however, create a group and invite your contacts to it. Signal gives you the capability to share the link with your previous WhatsApp contacts. Once they click on it, they can download Signal and join the new group automatically.
Compare secure messaging apps
More details on other secure messaging apps
When it comes to secure messaging apps, users have a number of choices available to them. A viable alternative to WhatsApp and Signal may be Telegram. Like Signal, it too has seen subscribers flock to its platform. However, keep in mind that Telegram has a legal status as a private company.
Another secure messaging app available to some users is iMessage that forms part of Apple's iOS. However, unlike WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram that run on any device, this app is only available to Apple users.
Threema is another secure messaging app that offers enhanced privacy. Its key differentiator is that it stores all your contact lists and group information on your device exclusively.
If you've analysed these apps and still haven't found what you're looking for, you can also try Wire and Riot.IM. Both of these platforms may offer the security and privacy demanded by users in these times.
The bottom line
Signal is a privacy-first secure messaging app that largely offers the same features as WhatsApp. But the former's reputation for privacy, illustrated by its actions and policies, is well-earned. Switching to Signal will boost your privacy, but you may well need to continue using WhatsApp alongside it for a while – for many, this might be the case until all their important contacts use the platform. Slowly transitioning from one platform can be undertaken as a journey and could be the smartest way to make the change.
Frequently asked questions
Do I need to get others who I chat with on WhatsApp to switch over to Signal?
Yes. Unfortunately, users on Signal cannot exchange messages with WhatsApp users and vice versa.
How will I know if Signal changes its security and data practices in the future?
Like any other service, Signal may update its policies from time to time. However, it cannot change any Terms and Conditions without the prior consent of its users.
Compared to WhatsApp, iMessage and others, is Signal a user-friendly messaging app?
Essentially, Signal has the same capabilities as WhatsApp. Its user interface is intuitive, feature-rich and easy to use.
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