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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 2 March 2021

Will one tweet from Elon Musk be enough to help Signal dethrone WhatsApp as the messenger app of choice?

After WhatsApp announced a change to its privacy policy, people are flocking to Signal, thanks to a nudge from the Tesla founder

After WhatsApp announced some major changes to its privacy policy, Elon Musk – the world’s richest man – urged his followers to take their messaging elsewhere.

In a tweet on Thursday, the Tesla chief executive simply said: “Use Signal”. The messenger app is an alternative to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and, following the updates to WhatsApp, will offer users more privacy surrounding their personal data.

The prompt from the entrepreneur, who made his name and fortune through upcoming technologies, was enough for people to not only make the switch, but to attempt to cash in on the under-the-radar app before its users skyrocketed.

On Saturday, the Signal app tweeted a graph showing a flurry of people had invested in the Signal Advance app since Musk’s comment. However, the messaging platform said that app was not related.

“Is this what stock analysts mean when they say that the market is giving mixed Signals?” the tweet said. “It's understandable that people want to invest in Signal's record growth, but this isn't us. We're an independent 501(c)(3) and our only investment is in your privacy.”

Signal has since shot to the top of the app store in many countries around the world, including India, Hong Kong, France, Austria and Germany.

WhatsApp’s new privacy policy asks users to share personal information with its parent company – Facebook – or have their accounts deactivated.

Users are being told about the updated privacy policy through an in-app alert, which directs them to agree to the new conditions. For now, users can opt to ignore the alert. However, that will not be the case after February 8.

“After this date, you’ll need to accept these updates to continue using WhatsApp,” the alert reads. Users can visit the app’s Help Centre if they prefer to have their accounts deleted, it added.

A deeper look into the app’s new terms includes an abstract of how WhatsApp intends to share user information with Facebook.

“As part of the Facebook family of companies, WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, this family of companies,” the policy reads.

“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, customise, support and market our services and their offerings.”

However, it seems that chats within the app will not be shared with Facebook – at least, not yet. As the chats are encrypted, neither Facebook nor WhatsApp can view conversations even if they wanted to.

The kind of information that will be shared across the platforms is likely to include phone numbers, mobile device information, IP addresses, diagnostic data, profile pictures and names.

The updated policy will also allow the company to also gather information about a phone’s hardware, such as battery level and service status.

Updated: January 13, 2021 01:22 PM

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