Why I prefer Signal over WhatsApp

Recently I was very impressed by the reported numbers of millions of people switching from WhatsApp to Signal in response to the latest privacy policy changes of WhatsApp in Februar 2021 (which has now been postponed to May because WhatsApp fears to miss so many users).

Chris / / last updated on

I use the Signal messenger for most of my private messages already since several years and I am very confident with it. In this post I will shortly highlight some arguments why I prefer Signal over WhatsApp.

What are the benefits of Signal vs. WhatsApp?

Of course the single most advantage of Signal over WhatsApp is the focus on privacy. Signal really complies with GDPR principle “Privacy by Design” and only collects a minimum of required data for the service to work.
The newly introduced privacy checklist in the Apple App Store for each app gives a good overview of the different types of personal data each messenger is requiring:

Signal Personal Data vs. other messengers

Of course there is always room for improvement and in my opinion it would be a great enhancement if Signal switches from the telephone number as identifier to some random string like Threema does. But of course privacy and usability are always 2 sides of the same medal..

As the company behind Signal is a non-profit organization you can be assured that your data won’t be transferred to Facebook and used for targeting the ads more specifically to you and your friends. Also any developer can check the code of Signal as it is Open Source.

From a technical perspective it is also worth noting that WhatsApp is using the Signal encryption technique in its app under the hood as well. But of course the app itself is not Open Source.

One additional major benefit of Signal over Threema or other messenger alternatives is that it is free. While at first this may sound contra-intuitive, because you know: if you don’t pay for it you are the product.
But this also assures that the messenger can spread broadly to people. Most people are not that privacy-aware that they will spend money on another messenger when WhatsApp is free.
Of course then it is important to donate so that the people behind Signal are getting paid for their work on the great messenger.

Besides the technical stuff I am not so much feature addicted, but I must admit that one of the highlights of Signal is the reaction Emojis to single messages:

Signal Reaction Emojis

In addition I also enjoy the self-deletion of messages after some time.

When should you not use Signal?

Of course as always in our industry, not every software is for everyone. If you are looking for a 1:1 replacement of WhatsApp including status, live position tracking, etc., Signal is probably not (yet) your best choice.

The team at Signal is working hard but as it is completely funded by donations, the development pace cannot be the same as what Facebook does with WhatsApp. Although the recent push of millions of new users to Signal will help the development too.

So all in all as you may already know, I am very much privacy-concerned that’s why it should not come as a surprise to you that I prefer Signal over WhatsApp ;-)

If you want a detailed technical comparison of different messengers, have a look at this helpful messenger matrix and for a in-depth check of Signal see this blog post.

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