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How does WhatsApp alternative Signal work and why are people moving to it? All your questions answered

Signal is a cross-platform encrypted messaging service that is fast becoming a viable WhatsApp alternative.

January 09, 2021 / 01:51 PM IST

WhatsApp’s latest modification to its privacy policy has sent several users ditching the platform in search for better alternatives. One such alternative is Signal.

The app has seen a surge in its userbase with the world’s richest man Elon Musk endorsing the app. In fact, Signal’s servers were unable to handle the influx and verification codes were delayed, although the issue seems to be resolved at the moment. Which begs the question, “what is signal, and why are so many people turning to it?”

What is Signal?

Signal is a cross-platform encrypted messaging service that is available on iOS, Android, and Windows. The platform is an open-source software application that uses end-to-end encryption for messages and media shared between users. You can make video and audio calls on Signal. You can also send links, photos, and videos, similar to WhatsApp.

How does Signal work?

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While Signal uses telephone numbers as contacts, like WhatsApp, it uses the Internet to send private or group messages to other users. Signal cannot “decrypt or otherwise access the content of your messages or calls.”

Is Signal free to use?

Yes, Signal is completely free to use. Signal can replace your default messaging app, although you may incur a fee to send a text message, depending on your mobile plan.

Can you make group calls on Signal?

You can make group calls on Signals, which are limited to 150 members.

What are Signal’s privacy features?

Signal has quite a few privacy features, including Screen Lock, Relay Calls, and more. Signal users can turn off link previews from websites when they are sent in messages. Users can also turn off Read Receipts, preventing people from seeing when you have read their message. When you turn on the option to Relay Calls on Signal, all your calls will go through a Signal server to avoid revealing your IP address, although Signal suggests that this will reduce call quality.

You can turn off the indicator that shows another person when you are typing. Signal also allows you to set a security PIN to keep your account secure, although there is no way of recovering a forgotten PIN. Signal also has a Screen Lock feature to ensure no one can access the platform on your phone.

Does Signal collect your data?

Signal’s privacy policy states that the messaging app only collects account information, which is primarily the phone number used to create the Signal account. In addition, it also collects some technical information including, “randomly generated authentication tokens, keys, push tokens, and other material that is necessary to establish calls and transmit messages.” However, Signal says it “limits this additional technical information to the minimum required to operate the Services.” Signal also says that it does not “sell, rent or monetise your personal data or content in any way – ever.”

Can you backup chats on Signal on the Cloud?

Unlike WhatsApp, you cannot backup chats on iCloud or Google Drive with Signal. All chats are stored on your phone, so if you lose your device, all your previous chats will be lost.
Carlsen Martin
first published: Jan 9, 2021 01:14 pm

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