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Explainer : Choosing between WhatsApp and Signal

Photo for representation

The fight for users is now out in the open between Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg-led WhatsApp and its smaller rival Signal. Here are some facts that you could keep in mind while choosing between the two.  

Signal is owned by a non-profit organisation and puts a large emphasis on security, while WhatsApp tends to be easier to use as it has more features. 

What they have in common

Mark Zuckerberg-owned Facebook bought WhatsApp, co-founded by Brian Acton and Jan Koum, for $22 billion in 2014.

Koum left Facebook in 2018, and Acton went on to invest $50 million of his own money into rival encrypted messaging app Signal. 

The two messaging apps have some things in common. Unlike normal SMS messages both Signal and WhatsApp use end-to-end encryption, which hides messages in case someone intercepts the chat or finds them on a server. 

The two rival apps allow users to chat for free via Wi-Fi networks or cellular data, which make them popular for international communication. 

Who owns Signal?

Signal is operated by the non-profit Signal Foundation .  Brian Acton and Signal CEO Moxie Marlinspike co-founded Signal Foundation in February 2018.

According to Signal Foundation's website, Acton left after Facebook's acquisition "due to differences surrounding the use of customer data and targeted advertising." The executive donated $50 million to start Signal Foundation, and is now a member on the organization's board.

Meredith Whittaker is the third board member of the Signal Foundation. She is a former Google engineer. 

Signal considered more secure

Signal says it does not obtain user messages, groups, contacts, or profile information. The only two pieces of information Signal collects are how long users have had Signal installed and the last date it was installed.

Signal is considered more secure by cyber experts. 

WhatsApp is easy to use 

WhatsApp appeals to its more than 2 billion users worldwide with its ease and flexibility of use. It  has more features than Signal.

The app is available on both iOS and Android devices, and automatically syncs your phone contact list, since users are identified by their cell numbers.

Although Facebook cannot access chats due to the end-to-end encryption, it has access to WhatsApp user phone numbers, IP addresses, mobile network, length of time using the messenger, payment data, cookies, and location data.This is considered a compromise over privacy.