Rajath Ramakrishna

WhatsApp 0:1 Signal

Posted on — | 4 min read

I’ve been on Signal for a few years now, but it has mostly been crickets and tumbleweeds there because I only had a handful of contacts that were on Signal. My main (and only) app for communication with friends and family was WhatsApp. I used to install Signal and a few days later I’d uninstall it because I didn’t really have many people to talk to on Signal. I wanted to keep it and at least use it as an SMS app, but with the amount of spam texts I get and the fact that it doesn’t have a feature to filter texts by keyword made me not use it as an SMS app either.

The problem with new platforms

The main problem with newer platforms is the user base. If all your friends and family are not on the new platform (social media or messenger), then you really can’t use it. That’s what happened with me on Signal. It was a herculean task for me to convince people who cared very little about privacy to make them switch to Signal. The thing is, it ends up being a huge task for them too. They also have to convince their contacts to switch to Signal or else they’ll experience the same silence of having no one to talk to on that app. Some people are okay with using multiple messaging apps and I know a lot of people that don’t. I personally don’t enjoy it.

WhatsApp’s new privacy policy

WhatsApp’s new privacy policy that will take effect in Feb 2021 went viral and made enough people talk about it. The fact that there was no way to opt out was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. Even Elon Musk tweeted which ended up putting way too much stress on Signal’s servers where there was a delay for new users in receiving verification codes. As much as downtimes are hated in tech services, this particular problem is actually good to have for any tech company.

I’d say this is a kind of blessing in disguise which gave a lot of people the final push to stop giving in to big tech companies to continue stealing data from customers. What I did realize was how easy and valuable it was to make people aware of the data collection practices.

If this privacy policy update had come in the form of an email that we usually get from other services, like “We have updated our privacy policy. Please click here to learn more.” I don’t think we would have taken it this seriously.

How I spread awareness

WhatsApp made the job easier for me to spread awareness of their privacy and data collection nightmare.

1. Update my WhatsApp status

The first thing I did was to update my WhatsApp status to say “I’m deleting WhatsApp on 1/31. Find me on Signal”. This would give people a heads-up about my availability on WhatsApp and also tell them where to find me.

2. Starting conversations about privacy with people

I ended up sharing two screenshots with the groups and people I interact with the most on WhatsApp. Once I shared them, it was abundantly clear to them that they had to ditch WhatsApp and most of them immediately hopped on to Signal.

WhatsApp Privacy Policy
Data collection by different apps

What I also did was to create Groups on Signal and send the group invite to respective groups in WhatsApp. It made the transition easier. Now the number of contacts in Signal is growing.

Signal is the future

Signal paved the way and showed the world how apps can be made that wouldn’t profit off of your data. Their Reddit AMA provides good insight into their values, their vision and a lot more about who they are and how they operate. I have donated to Signal and will continue to do so. I love the fact that they’re non-profit and open source; that’s a huge plus to me. It’s so peaceful stress-free to use an app or a service that we know has our best interests and wouldn’t make money off of our data. In the world where it seems as if privacy no longer exists, it’s great to see a very private and secure messaging app is growing to be so popular and it is on its way to become people’s primary mode of communication.