Signal, Telegram see Demand Spike as New WhatsApp Terms Stir Debate

(REUTERS/Hamodia) -
A user prompt to allow Facebook advertising tracking on Apple Inc’s iOS 14 mobile operating system, December 16, 2020. (Courtesy of Apple Inc./Handout via REUTERS )

Signal and Telegram messaging apps are seeing a sudden increase in demand after larger rival WhatsApp’s updated terms of service raised eyebrows on social media.

WhatsApp, which uses Signal’s encryption technology, laid out fresh terms on Wednesday, asking users to agree to let owner Facebook Inc and its subsidiaries collect user data, including their phone number and location.

Some privacy activists questioned the “accept our data grab or get out” move on Twitter, and suggested users to switch to apps like Signal and Telegram.

Though WhatsApp has had end-to-end encryption, many people are suspicious of Facebook, which has had a poor record of privacy on its platform. Facebook has been criticized by leaders and experts across the political range for its inconsistent rules, opaque algorithms, and for allowing violent imagery and hate speech to proliferate.

One of the co-founders of WhatsApp, Brian Acton, has publicly said he regrets selling the platform to Facebook, and has since invested in Signal.

Signal’s popularity shot up further on Thursday after it was endorsed by Elon Musk, who has one of the most-followed accounts on Twitter, and by the micro-blogging site’s top boss Jack Dorsey.

More than 100,000 users installed Signal across the app stores of Apple and Google in the last two days, while Telegram picked up nearly 2.2 million downloads, according to data analytics firm Sensor Tower.

New installs of WhatsApp fell 11% in the first seven days of 2021 compared with the prior week, but that still amounted to an estimated 10.5 million downloads globally, Sensor Tower said.