I take privacy seriously. In a time where much of our communication is through digital messaging, it's important to be aware of the privacy (or lack there of) of the many apps that we use on a daily basis. And whether you are chatting about top secret government issues or your latest break up, I believe that your messages, your media, and your surrounding data deserve to be kept secure and private.
With all the options out there these days (many of which are bragging about their security measures) I continue to choose Signal as my top choice for messaging apps. I look at my Signal App everyday. I love love that many of my friends and business partners Signal with me. It’s easy, fun and stealth. Just like iMessage or WhatsApp, with Signal you can text, video chat, send photos- all the communication stuff. Here's why I (and many respecting tech and privacy experts) choose it:
Signal, Simply the Best encrypted communications app for Android and iOS.
The Signal App, like many messaging platforms, uses end-to-end encryption. That means messages don’t live on servers, so they are not readable to eavesdroppers. Signal cannot read your messages or listen to your calls - and no one else can either. This is obviously important, but the bare minimum that you should be looking for when it comes to messaging platforms.
WhatsApp received a lot of flack for not being encrypted early on and has since changed that. iMessage is encrypted for messages between iPhones but unfortunately not for messages between iPhones and Androids (cue the green chat bubbles!).
Fun Fact: The Signal team actually invented the technology behind their open source Signal protocol encryption - a technology that many other platforms have now adopted as well.
Password Books Are Safer Than Password Apps• A Faraday Blocks All Tracking- Even GPS • Camera Hacking is Very Real and theBest Protection is a Camera Cover
However, just because a platform is encrypted, doesn't mean it's safe, secure, or private. It's important to look a little deeper at what is happening with your data - and that starts with who owns the platforms...
Here is who owns a few of the messaging platforms in question:
iMessage is owned by Apple
WhatsApp is owned by Meta (previously Facebook)
Signal is owned by the Signal Foundation
As you probably know by now, Meta doesn't have the greatest track record when it comes to privacy, security and ethical business practices. When it comes down to it, their top priority will always be PROFIT, even if that means sacrificing your data privacy. Like I always say, if the product is free, then YOU (and your info) are the product. Do you want to trust them to handle your most private conversations?
Signal on the other hand, is owned by an independent non-profit organization. They don't have shareholders, they aren't trying to make money off of you, they don't have ads or affiliates and they don't even sell access to the app. The free app is run off of donations from people who value privacy and transparency - and I really encourage you to help them out, because this is the kind of tech we need for a future that's safer and more private.
Data Collection & Sharing
Here's where we see a lot of the differences in privacy concerns.
Metadata: While the content of the messages might be encrypted, with platforms like WhatsApp, the metadata is not. Metadata includes information like who the message is being sent to, when it is delivered, location info and more. WhatsApp does not protect this info which means Meta and third parties have access to it - Signal on the other hand has something called "Sealed Sender" which hides all of this information.
Identifying information: Signal only needs a phone number to work and doesn't attempt to connect the number with an identity. WhatsApp requires a phone number and a full Profile that is connecting to the rest of the information about you in the Facebook and Google world. iMessage requires your phone number- and obviously if you have a number connected to your iPhone- Apple knows who you are.
When it comes to security, signal comes out on top again. As you would expect, WhatsApp has confirmed several hacks and vulnerabilities including one in 2019 that allowed cybercriminals to install spyware on users phones - no thanks!
When it comes to Privacy and security, Signal Wins. Now you just need all your friends to join you!
Convinced to switch to Signal? Great! but you’ll have to get your friends and co-workers on board of course, because you can only text and call people who are also using Signal. It’s great for family texts, great for business, and I’m really enjoying it because it’s pretty too! (Always a bonus)
One final bonus reason? I can use signal while on Airplane mode and plugged into the internet via an ethernet cord! Apple sometimes messes with the software and makes you unable to message on Airplane mode but Signal is reliable and consistent to use EMF-free! LOVE!
Here are their privacy policies for reference:
Updated May 25, 2018
Signal utilizes state-of-the-art security and end-to-end encryption to provide private messaging and Internet calling services to users worldwide (“Services”). Your calls and messages are always encrypted, so they can never be shared or viewed by anyone but yourself and the intended recipients.
Information you provide
Account Information. You register a phone number when you create a Signal account. Phone numbers are used to provide our Services to you and other Signal users. You may optionally add other information to your account, such as a profile name and profile picture. This information is end-to-end encrypted.
Messages. Signal cannot decrypt or otherwise access the content of your messages or calls. Signal queues end-to-end encrypted messages on its servers for delivery to devices that are temporarily offline (e.g. a phone whose battery has died). Your message history is stored on your own devices.
Additional technical information is stored on our servers, including randomly generated authentication tokens, keys, push tokens, and other material that is necessary to establish calls and transmit messages. Signal limits this additional technical information to the minimum required to operate the Services.
Contacts. Signal can optionally discover which contacts in your address book are Signal users, using a service designed to protect the privacy of your contacts. Information from the contacts on your device may be cryptographically hashed and transmitted to the server in order to determine which of your contacts are registered.
User Support. If you contact Signal User Support, any personal data you may share with us is kept only for the purposes of researching the issue and contacting you about your case.
Managing your information. You can manage your personal information in Signal’s application Settings. For example, you can update your profile information or choose to enable additional privacy features like a Registration Lock PIN.
Information we may share
Third Parties. We work with third parties to provide some of our Services. For example, our Third-Party Providers send a verification code to your phone number when you register for our Services. These providers are bound by their Privacy Policies to safeguard that information. If you use other Third-Party Services like YouTube, Spotify, Giphy, etc. in connection with our Services, their Terms and Privacy Policies govern your use of those services.
Other instances where Signal may need to share your data
- To meet any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request.
- To enforce applicable Terms, including investigation of potential violations.
- To detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security, or technical issues.
- To protect against harm to the rights, property, or safety of Signal, our users, or the public as required or permitted by law.
WhatsApp Legal Info
Please also read WhatsApp’s Terms of Service ("Terms"), which describe the terms under which you use and we provide our Services.
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Better Communication With Businesses. Many businesses rely on WhatsApp to communicate with their customers and clients. We work with businesses that use Meta or third parties to help store and better manage their communications with you on WhatsApp.
Making It Easier To Connect. As part of the Meta Companies, WhatsApp partners with Meta to offer experiences and integrations across Meta’s family of apps and products.
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Information We Collect
WhatsApp must receive or collect some information to operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services, including when you install, access, or use our Services.
The types of information we receive and collect depend on how you use our Services. We require certain information to deliver our Services and without this we will not be able to provide our Services to you. For example, you must provide your mobile phone number to create an account to use our Services.
Our Services have optional features which, if used by you, require us to collect additional information to provide such features. You will be notified of such collection, as appropriate. If you choose not to provide the information needed to use a feature, you will be unable to use the feature. For example, you cannot share your location with your contacts if you do not permit us to collect your location data from your device. Permissions can be managed through your Settings menu on both Android and iOS devices.
Information You Provide
Your Account Information. You must provide your mobile phone number and basic information (including a profile name of your choice) to create a WhatsApp account. If you don’t provide us with this information, you will not be able to create an account to use our Services. You can add other information to your account, such as a profile picture and "about" information.
Your Messages. We do not retain your messages in the ordinary course of providing our Services to you. Instead, your messages are stored on your device and not typically stored on our servers. Once your messages are delivered, they are deleted from our servers. The following scenarios describe circumstances where we may store your messages in the course of delivering them:
Undelivered Messages. If a message cannot be delivered immediately (for example, if the recipient is offline), we keep it in encrypted form on our servers for up to 30 days as we try to deliver it. If a message is still undelivered after 30 days, we delete it.
Media Forwarding. When a user forwards media within a message, we store that media temporarily in encrypted form on our servers to aid in more efficient delivery of additional forwards.
We offer end-to-end encryption for our Services. End-to-end encryption means that your messages are encrypted to protect against us and third parties from reading them. Learn more about end-to-end encryption and how businesses communicate with you on WhatsApp.
Your Connections. You can use the contact upload feature and provide us, if permitted by applicable laws, with the phone numbers in your address book on a regular basis, including those of users of our Services and your other contacts. If any of your contacts aren’t yet using our Services, we’ll manage this information for you in a way that ensures those contacts cannot be identified by us. Learn more about our contact upload feature here. You can create, join, or get added to groups and broadcast lists, and such groups and lists get associated with your account information. You give your groups a name. You can provide a group profile picture or description.
Status Information. You may provide us your status if you choose to include one on your account. Learn how to use status on Android, iPhone, or KaiOS.
Customer Support And Other Communications. When you contact us for customer support or otherwise communicate with us, you may provide us with information related to your use of our Services, including copies of your messages, any other information you deem helpful, and how to contact you (e.g., an email address). For example, you may send us an email with information relating to app performance or other issues.
Automatically Collected Information
Usage And Log Information. We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, "about" information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your "last seen"); and when you last updated your "about" information.
Device And Connection Information. We collect device and connection-specific information when you install, access, or use our Services. This includes information such as hardware model, operating system information, battery level, signal strength, app version, browser information, mobile network, connection information (including phone number, mobile operator or ISP), language and time zone, IP address, device operations information, and identifiers (including identifiers unique to Meta Company Products associated with the same device or account).
Location Information. We collect and use precise location information from your device with your permission when you choose to use location-related features, like when you decide to share your location with your contacts or view locations nearby or locations others have shared with you. There are certain settings relating to location-related information which you can find in your device settings or the in-app settings, such as location sharing. Even if you do not use our location-related features, we use IP addresses and other information like phone number area codes to estimate your general location (e.g., city and country). We also use your location information for diagnostics and troubleshooting purposes.
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Information Others Provide About You. We receive information about you from other users. For example, when other users you know use our Services, they may provide your phone number, name, and other information (like information from their mobile address book) just as you may provide theirs. They may also send you messages, send messages to groups to which you belong, or call you. We require each of these users to have lawful rights to collect, use, and share your information before providing any information to us.
You should keep in mind that in general any user can capture screenshots of your chats or messages or make recordings of your calls with them and send them to WhatsApp or anyone else, or post them on another platform.
User Reports. Just as you can report other users, other users or third parties may also choose to report to us your interactions and your messages with them or others on our Services; for example, to report possible violations of our Terms or policies. When a report is made, we collect information on both the reporting user and reported user. To find out more about what happens when a user report is made, please see Advanced Safety and Security Features.
Businesses On WhatsApp. Businesses you interact with using our Services may provide us with information about their interactions with you. We require each of these businesses to act in accordance with applicable law when providing any information to us.
Third-Party Service Providers. We work with third-party service providers and other Meta Companies to help us operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services. For example, we work with them to distribute our apps; provide our technical and physical infrastructure, delivery, and other systems; provide engineering support, cybersecurity support, and operational support; supply location, map, and places information; process payments; help us understand how people use our Services; market our Services; help you connect with businesses using our Services; conduct surveys and research for us; ensure safety, security, and integrity; and help with customer service. These companies may provide us with information about you in certain circumstances; for example, app stores may provide us with reports to help us diagnose and fix service issues.
The "How We Work With Other Meta Companies" section below provides more information about how WhatsApp collects and shares information with the other Meta Companies.
Third-Party Services. We allow you to use our Services in connection with third-party services and Meta Company Products. If you use our Services with such third-party services or Meta Company Products, we may receive information about you from them; for example, if you use the WhatsApp share button on a news service to share a news article with your WhatsApp contacts, groups, or broadcast lists on our Services, or if you choose to access our Services through a mobile carrier’s or device provider’s promotion of our Services. Please note that when you use third-party services or Meta Company Products, their own terms and privacy policies will govern your use of those services and products.
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How We Use Information
We use information we have (subject to choices you make and applicable law) to operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services. Here's how:
Our Services. We use information we have to operate and provide our Services, including providing customer support; completing purchases or transactions; improving, fixing, and customizing our Services; and connecting our Services with Meta Company Products that you may use. We also use information we have to understand how people use our Services; evaluate and improve our Services; research, develop, and test new services and features; and conduct troubleshooting activities. We also use your information to respond to you when you contact us.
Safety, Security, And Integrity. Safety, security, and integrity are an integral part of our Services. We use information we have to verify accounts and activity; combat harmful conduct; protect users against bad experiences and spam; and promote safety, security, and integrity on and off our Services, such as by investigating suspicious activity or violations of our Terms and policies, and to ensure our Services are being used legally. Please see the Law, Our Rights and Protection section below for more information.
Communications About Our Services And The Meta Companies. We use information we have to communicate with you about our Services and let you know about our terms, policies, and other important updates. We may provide you marketing for our Services and those of the Meta Companies.
Business Interactions. We enable you and third parties, like businesses, to communicate and interact with each other using our Services, such as Catalogs for businesses on WhatsApp through which you can browse products and services and place orders. Businesses may send you transaction, appointment, and shipping notifications; product and service updates; and marketing. For example, you may receive flight status information for upcoming travel, a receipt for something you purchased, or a notification when a delivery will be made. Messages you receive from a business could include an offer for something that might interest you. We do not want you to have a spammy experience; as with all of your messages, you can manage these communications, and we will honor the choices you make.
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Information You And We Share
You share your information as you use and communicate through our Services, and we share your information to help us operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services.
Send Your Information To Those With Whom You Choose To Communicate. You share your information (including messages) as you use and communicate through our Services.
Information Associated With Your Account. Your phone number, profile name and photo, "about" information, last seen information, and message receipts are available to anyone who uses our Services, although you can configure your Services settings to manage certain information available to other users, including businesses, with whom you communicate.
Your Contacts And Others. Users, including businesses, with whom you communicate can store or reshare your information (including your phone number or messages) with others on and off our Services. You can use your Services settings and the “block” feature in our Services to manage who you communicate with on our Services and certain information you share.
Businesses On WhatsApp. We offer specific services to businesses such as providing them with metrics regarding their use of our Services.
Third-Party Service Providers. We work with third-party service providers and other Meta Companies to help us operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services. We work with these companies to support our Services, such as to provide technical infrastructure, delivery and other systems; market our Services; conduct surveys and research for us; protect the safety, security, and integrity of users and others; and assist with customer service. When we share information with third-party service providers and other Meta Companies in this capacity, we require them to use your information on our behalf in accordance with our instructions and terms.
Third-Party Services. When you or others use third-party services or other Meta Company Products that are integrated with our Services, those third-party services may receive information about what you or others share with them. For example, if you use a data backup service integrated with our Services (like iCloud or Google Drive), they will receive information you share with them, such as your WhatsApp messages. If you interact with a third-party service or another Meta Company Product linked through our Services, such as when you use the in-app player to play content from a third-party platform, information about you, like your IP address and the fact that you are a WhatsApp user, may be provided to such third party or Meta Company Product. Please note that when you use third-party services or other Meta Company Products, their own terms and privacy policies will govern your use of those services and products.
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How We Work With Other Meta Companies
As part of the Meta Companies, WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information (see here) with, the other Meta Companies. We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings, including the Meta Company Products. This includes:
- helping improve infrastructure and delivery systems;
- understanding how our Services or theirs are used;
- promoting safety, security, and integrity across the Meta Company Products, e.g., securing systems and fighting spam, threats, abuse, or infringement activities;
- improving their services and your experiences using them, such as making suggestions for you (for example, of friends or group connections, or of interesting content), personalizing features and content, helping you complete purchases and transactions, and showing relevant offers and ads across the Meta Company Products; and
- providing integrations which enable you to connect your WhatsApp experiences with other Meta Company Products. For example, allowing you to connect your Facebook Pay account to pay for things on WhatsApp or enabling you to chat with your friends on other Meta Company Products, such as Portal, by connecting your WhatsApp account.
Learn more about the other Meta Companies and their privacy practices by reviewing their privacy policies.
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Assignment, Change Of Control, And Transfer
In the event that we are involved in a merger, acquisition, restructuring, bankruptcy, or sale of all or some of our assets, we will share your information with the successor entities or new owners in connection with the transaction in accordance with applicable data protection laws.
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Managing And Retaining Your Information
You can access or port your information using our in-app Request Account Info feature (available under Settings > Account). For iPhone users, you can learn how to access, manage, and delete your information through our iPhone Help Center articles. For Android users, you can learn how to access, manage, and delete your information through our Android Help Center articles.
If you would like to further manage, change, limit, or delete your information, you can do that through the following tools:
Services Settings. You can change your Services settings to manage certain information available to other users. You can manage your contacts, groups, and broadcast lists, or use our “block” feature to manage the users with whom you communicate.
Changing Your Mobile Phone Number, Profile Name And Picture, And “About” Information. If you change your mobile phone number, you must update it using our in-app change number feature and transfer your account to your new mobile phone number. You can also change your profile name, profile picture, and "about" information at any time.
Deleting Your WhatsApp Account. You can delete your WhatsApp account at any time (including if you want to revoke your consent to our use of your information pursuant to applicable law) using our in-app delete my account feature. When you delete your WhatsApp account, your undelivered messages are deleted from our servers as well as any of your other information we no longer need to operate and provide our Services. Deleting your account will, for example, delete your account info and profile photo, delete you from all WhatsApp groups, and delete your WhatsApp message history. Be mindful that if you only delete WhatsApp from your device without using our in-app delete my account feature, your information will be stored with us for a longer period. Please remember that when you delete your account, it does not affect your information related to the groups you created or the information other users have relating to you, such as their copy of the messages you sent them.
You can learn more here about our data deletion and retention practices and about how to delete your account.
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Law, Our Rights, And Protection
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Our Global Operations
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Updates To Our Policy
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Privacy Rights for United States Residents
You can learn more about the consumer privacy rights that may be available to you, by reviewing the United States Regional Privacy Notice here.
Published Date: December 12, 2022
- Messages are backed up in iCloud and encrypted if you enable iCloud Backup or Messages in iCloud.
- iMessage is end-to-end encrypted. The phone number or email address you use is shown to the people you contact, and you can choose to share your name and photo.
- Apple retains limited information about the use of iMessage, such as whether your device is eligible to use iMessage, for up to 30 days.
Messages is an app that allows users to communicate via SMS, iMessage, and Apple Messages for Business. iMessage is an Apple service that sends messages to other iOS devices (with iOS 5 or later), iPadOS devices, Macs (with OS X 10.8 or later), and Apple Watches. These messages don’t count against your messaging plan. Messages sent via iMessage can include photos, videos, and other information.
We designed iMessage to use end-to-end encryption, so there’s no way for Apple to decrypt the content of your conversations when they are in transit between devices. Attachments you send over iMessage (such as photos or videos) are encrypted so that no one but the sender and receiver(s) can access them. These encrypted attachments may be uploaded to Apple. To improve performance, your device may automatically upload attachments to Apple while you are composing an iMessage. If your message isn’t sent, the attachments are deleted from the server after 30 days. When a passcode or password is set on your iOS, iPadOS, or watchOS device, stored messages are encrypted on your device so that they can’t be accessed unless the device has been unlocked.
You can choose to automatically delete your iMessages from your device after 30 days or a year, or to keep them on your device forever. For your convenience, iMessages are backed up in iCloud and encrypted if you have enabled either iCloud Backup or Messages in iCloud. You can turn off both iCloud Backup and Messages in iCloud whenever you want. On your iOS or iPadOS device, go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud. On Mac, go to Messages > Settings > iMessage, and deselect Enable Messages in iCloud.
You can sign in to iMessage using your Apple ID, or just your phone number. If you sign in with your Apple ID on your device, you will be signed in to iMessage automatically. Your Apple ID or phone numbers will be shown to the people you contact, and people can reach you using your Apple ID and email addresses or phone numbers on your account. You can select which phone numbers or email addresses you’d like to start new conversations from, and which phone numbers or email addresses you can receive messages and reply from, in iMessage settings. You can add and verify additional Reachable At information from your Apple ID account page at appleid.apple.com.
Shared with You works across the system to find the articles, music, TV shows, photos, and more that are shared in Messages conversations, and conveniently surfaces them in apps like Photos, Safari, Apple News, Apple Music, and Apple Podcasts, making it easy to quickly access the information in context. Apple does not have access to marked content without your permission. You can disable Shared with You at any time on your iOS or iPadOS device by going to Settings > Messages > Shared with You, then tapping to turn off Shared with You. On Mac, go to Messages > Settings > Shared with You. You can also control whether each app participates in Shared with You by tapping or selecting it in the Shared with You section.
Share Name and Photo allows you to share a name and photo with people you iMessage. You can choose to automatically share with just your contacts, or to be prompted each time. Your shared name and photo will be sent with your next iMessage to the people you share with, and stored on their devices. If you share your name and photo with an iMessage conversation with multiple people, your name and photo will be sent to all the people in the conversation. You can update your name and photo at any time. If you automatically share, updates will be sent when you next send an iMessage to each person you share with. If you have shared your name and photo and later turn off sharing, others who previously received your name and photo may still have your information on their devices. The name and photo you select for messages will be sent to Apple, and stored on Apple’s servers encrypted in a way that Apple cannot see.
Apple may record and store some information related to your use of the Messages app and the iMessage service to operate and improve Apple’s products and services:
- Apple may store information about your use of iMessage in a way that doesn’t identify you.
- iMessages that can’t be delivered may be held by Apple for up to 30 days for redelivery.
- Some apps on your device (including Messages) may communicate with Apple’s servers to determine whether other people can be reached by iMessage. When this happens, Apple may store these phone numbers and email addresses associated with your account, for up to 30 days.
By using these features, you agree and consent to Apple’s and its subsidiaries’ and agents’ transmission, collection, maintenance, processing, and use of this information as described above.