Share your data or leave.
That's the message users see when they open WhatsApp and encounter its latest terms of service agreement. Once a user agrees to the ultimatum, the messaging app is allowed to collect and share user data with its parent company, Facebook.
The move has spurred an exodus of users from WhatsApp and renewed some #DeleteFacebook and #DeleteWhatsApp campaigns on social media. It’s also helped a pair of rapidly-growing messaging apps — Telegram and Signal — surge in popularity.
In early January, WhatsApp’s 2 billion users began to see its new terms of service stating the company would be sharing user data with Facebook effective Feb. 8.
As you might imagine, users weren’t thrilled — WhatsApp was born from the promise of respecting privacy and offering secure, end-to-end encryption. The new policy feels like a betrayal of everything the platform claimed to stand for.
But the WhatsApp of 2021 is not the same WhatsApp of 2009, the year it was founded. Ever since Facebook bought Whatsapp for $19 billion in 2014, slowly but surely, the social media giant has worn away that privacy-focused ethos.
Beginning Feb. 8, WhatsApp’s user data collection includes:
WhatsApp’s two top competitors — Telegram and Signal — already had huge user bases before WhatsApp changed its terms of service.
But now that Facebook is harvesting and selling WhatsApp users’ data, both of the messaging apps are next in line to the throne.
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With 400 million users and counting, Telegram is a cloud-based mobile and desktop messaging app focused on security and simplicity.
On Telegram, users can send messages, photos, videos, and files of any type. Users can also create groups for up to 200,000 people or channels for broadcasting to unlimited audiences. Text, photo, and video messages sent on Telegram are heavily encrypted and can self-destruct.
Telegram also has enjoyed an influx of popularity thanks in part to WhatsApp’s news. According to Sensor Tower, the company snagged at least 2.2 million new downloads in the last week.
With about 500 million users, Signal offers users end-to-end encryption powered by the open-source Signal Protocol. That means neither Signal — nor anyone else — can read your messages or track your calls. The 501(c)3 nonprofit platform doesn't host ads, has no affiliate marketers, and claims to have “no creepy tracking” in its app.
Signal allows users to send texts, voice messages, photos, videos, GIFs and files for free. It also offers video chat and group chat functionality.
A vocal critic of Facebook, Elon Musk was quick to admonish WhatsApp's duplicity by encouraging followers to download Signal.
According to Sensor Tower, after that tweet, more than 100,000 people downloaded Signal from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Comically, Musk’s tweet also led to a 1,110% stock growth of an unrelated company, Signal Advance.
If you’re weighing the pros and cons of WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram, check out this comparison table.
What do you make of WhatsApp’s new terms of service? Are you using alternative messaging apps? Share your thoughts below.