The chatter around the WhatsApp Privacy Policy coming into effect on 8 February 2021 continues, not just on social media, but even in real-life. It's as if many people have temporarily stopped being concerned by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Given that, there has been a lot of discussions as to which instant messaging app is the best privacy focussed alternative to WhatsApp.

I'm joking.

Two names come up in conversations repeatedly with regards to WhatsApp alternatives - Telegram and Signal.

If it were for me, I'd make this very short and give you an answer right away as to which app is the best privacy focussed alternative to WhatsApp. However, in the interests of transparency, we will present you with our quick research comparing the three apps so that you can understand the final suggestion and conclusion.

First, and importantly, is the question of who owns each of these apps and/or how they are funded.

Both WhatsApp and Telegram are privately-owned. Also, if you may, both are controlled (from voting at a board-level perspective) by CEOs who have a background in creating social media platforms. Pavel Durov, together with his brother, is known for creating VK, one of Russia's largest social networking platforms. While on the other hand, Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook and currently serves as its CEO.

With the Signal app, things are a bit different.

The app is run by a non-profit organization - the Signal Foundation. The Signal Foundation was founded in 2018 by Brian Acton and Moxie Marlinspike. Brian is the former co-founder of WhatsApp and also serves as the president of the foundation. He also funded the foundation with $50 million of his own money after selling WhatsApp to Facebook and leaving the company. Moxie created the Signal app before joining forces with Brian to form the Signal Foundation.

With the ownership of each app out the way, let's look at their key features and how they compare against each other as far as basic functionality is concerned.

How each messaging app compares as far as basic instant messaging features go.

From a functionality and features perspective, the three apps are relatively the same. The only key differences being that Telegram offers end-to-end encryption as an option when you specify a chat as a "secret chat" while both WhatsApp and Signal state that they offer end-to-end encryption across all communications made through their apps.

The other difference is that WhatsApp offers automatic cloud backups (once you've selected the option) to Google Drive or iCloud (your choice), while Telegram says it backs up encrypted chats to its servers. As far as Signal is concerned, it offers no automated cloud backups and only allows you to backup your chats to the internal hard drive of your mobile phone.

Now, onto the last and very important topic of privacy, which is why we are all having this conversation.

What data does each of these apps collect based on their Privacy Policies?

WhatsApp, even long before the announcement of its new Privacy Policy was already collecting a whole lot of information about you and from your mobile device (you can see some of that here). The major change with its new Privacy Policy is only that it will (officially) be sharing WhatsApp data with the Facebook social media platform.

That they announced this change is interesting because since acquiring WhatsApp, Facebook has been consolidating infrastructure across its platforms to a point where it feels like this announcement was probably made purely for compliance purposes. After all, they own WhatsApp, eventually, they had to integrate it with all their other systems.

Looking at the data collected by the three apps, it is clear that Signal collects the least amount of data, although it collects some, otherwise, it wouldn't be able to function. This is despite what some people have claimed saying that Signal collects no data, it does, they even state this in their Privacy Policy.

With that all out the way, I can finally say what I wanted to say at the beginning of this newsletter - go and download Signal if privacy is of importance to you.


Now that you are better informed in terms of deciding which instant messaging app best suits your privacy needs, here are the other top stories you must read today.

โš–๏ธ It sounds like de-platforming by Big Tech companies is trending in 2021. Eldrid Jordaan, founder, and CEO of South African citizen engagement platform, GovChat, has asked the Competition Tribunal to stop Facebook from de-platforming his company's access to the WhatsApp Business API. More importantly, which jurisdiction applies in this case as Facebook Inc. and WhatsApp Inc. are not South African legal entities? Link

๐Ÿ“ด Here we go again. Uganda's government has imposed social media restrictions in the country ahead of elections which are set to take place on Thursday, 14 January 2021. M7, as sometimes Uganda's President, Yoweri Museveni is known, says he imposed the restrictions because Facebook is taking sides in the upcoming elections. Ok, fair enough, but what about all the previous times your restricted social media ahead of elections? Link

๐Ÿ‘ฎ This brings us to why M7 is blaming Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg's company said it had taken down several Facebook accounts from Uganda linked to the countryโ€™s ministry of information. Facebook said these accounts were using fake and duplicate accounts to post ahead of this weekโ€™s presidential elections in the East African country. This is a very slippery slope as effectively Facebook can shape and influence the outcome of elections in Uganda. Link

๐Ÿ“ฐ As we published the iAfrikan Daily Brief newsletter in 2020, we observed that digital transformation was among the top topics. Our editorial team has put a list together of the top 10 editions of the newsletter from 2020 you must read. Link

๐Ÿ“ต Kenya's government requested that Apple unlock two iPhones that it says are involved in a police investigation, Apple has refused to unlock them. Link

๐Ÿ”– This is a good read - "Is Big Tech Setting Africa Back?." Link

Quote of the day

If privacy is your biggest concern when it comes to instant messaging apps, Signal is the best popular option at the moment. (Tweet this)

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