Signal, thank you for not collecting my data. But I won’t use you.

Facebook has given an ultimatum for WhatsApp users to either share their data with Facebook or leave the service. And that date is February 8th.

One of the most appealing things about WhatsApp is it’s end to end encryption. Even though their are other chat apps, no one provides end to end encryption to chats by default other than WhatsApp and Signal.

Not even Telegram provide encryption by default, and you need to start a secret chat to enable end to end encryption.

One of the most important things in iOS 14 is the ability for users see what kind of data apps are collecting from their users.

So in light of all this I went through the top 10 social networking/chat apps to see how much data they are collecting in comparison to Signal, and explain why I won’t use Signal and what we can do instead.

The top 10 social media/chat apps

Telegram

Telegram is one of the better apps when we compare with the others in this group. They collect relatively small amount of data.

It is currently the number 1 in my region, Telegram is extremely popular in my region because it provides a great way to share pirated content.

There is no limit to the file size that you can upload on Telegram, and there is no limit for the number of users that a Telegram group can have.

This makes it an ideal place for people to share pirated copies of movies, games, songs in groups with hundreds of users.

I’m bit reluctant to use Telegram due to its poor user interface, and its connections to Russia.

To clarify what I meant by poor user interface, on the android device that I tried Telegram, I was unable to select multiple chats, and deleting a chat is a multi step process. It doesn’t have to be that complicated.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is currently the number 2 in my region, and when compared with Telegram, WhatsApp is collecting a decent amount of data to track you.

Facebook and Messenger

Facebook is a vacuumed of user data, they collect everything that they can get their hands on.

The Messenger app is also no different to the Facebook app. I’m not installing either of them, no matter how much Facebook mobile website tries to funnel me to installing their Messenger app.

IMO

IMO is also a chat app with a niche audience. Even though it’s not popular in the USA, IMO is quite popular in Southeast Asia as a platform to share adult content, like a live cam website.

But it too has chat capabilities just like any other chat app, and it too collects a decent amount of user data, even more than WhatsApp.

Viber

When it comes to my friends and relatives Viber is the second most popular chat app behind WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Especially girls love using Viber because of the large variety of stickers, that they can select in the app.

Personally, I don’t like using viber, and find it too bloated. Yes, the stickers are nice, but what I need is a chat app, not a sticker app.

And it appears Viber is also collecting lot of data as well.

I’m skipping Parent control app, because even though listed as a chat app it does not appear to look like a chat app.

Signal

When it comes to chat apps, it’s unbelievable to see that Signal is basically not collecting any user data.

They also provide end to end encrypted chats by default.

The lack of collecting user data is a sign that they don’t need to sell user data as a way to make money.

Signal is currently depending on donations, and even if they find other ways to monetize the service, as long as they are not collecting data, we can be sure that our data is not being used to monetize the service.

BOTIM

I have not used the BOTIM and I have no idea why it’s there in the charts ahead of other chat apps like WeChat and Line.

Maybe BOTIM has a niche audience that I don’t know about.

Why I’n not/can’t use Signal

I love to use Signal, I wish everyone can use Signal, and I wish I can use Signal, but I just can’t.

I have installed any tried using Signal couple of times, but whenever I install it it’s basically a ghost town. No one is using it and I can’t convince anyone else to join, because none of their friends on Signal either.

The network effect on WhatsApp is strong, and almost all of my non techie regular WhatsApp users will just accept the new TOS and will share their data with Facebook. They just want a chat app and that is what WhatsApp is providing.

Even if I install Signal, I will be the only one in my network using it. And no one will be willing to use Signal just to chat with me.

I will try to keep my personal messages away from WhatsApp as much as possible, but. I won’t be able to leave my WhatsApp groups. I will use iMessages whenever I’m chatting with someone with an Apple device.

What we actually need

What we actually need is not Signal, WhatsApp or Telegram. What we need is a protocol, just like email but for chat and apps that build on top of this protocol.

There are such protocols, but no major company is willing to use them for their chat apps.

If we have such protocol, then we will be able to switch apps with ease, without having to worry about the network effect or losing out chats just like we can do with our emails.

So please everyone try to invest on a protocol, not on an individual app.

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