Don’t want to share your data with Facebook? Here are some WhatsApp alternatives


Don’t want Facebook snooping on your messages? Consider downloading other messaging apps. — AFP

Popular messaging platform WhatsApp has announced that users must agree to its new terms and services, where their data will be shared with parent company Facebook effective Feb 8.

WhatsApp said users need to accept the updates by then if they want to continue using the app or else they can choose to delete their account.

This new terms and privacy policy is a marked departure from WhatsApp’s previous policy of allowing users to partially opt out from sharing their data with Facebook specifically for ad targeting and product-related purposes, back when it first announced plans to share user information and metadata with its parent company in 2016.

As all your data on WhatsApp will soon belong Facebook, here are some alternative messaging platforms you might want to consider.

Telegram

Telegram has long been considered a major rival to WhatsApp, so it’s no surprise that the company poked fun at WhatsApp with memes on Twitter last week after the new terms and services policy was announced.

For those concerned about privacy, Telegram has a secret chats feature which uses end-to-end encryption and that allows users to set messages to disappear from both your device and the recipient’s after a certain period of time. Secret chats are also device-specific and not part of the Telegram cloud, and messages in secret chats also cannot be forwarded.

You can also choose to delete Telegram messages, either sent or received, from both your device and the recipient’s in one-on-one conversations with no time limit and, unlike WhatsApp, deleted messages will not leave a mark in the chat.

However, take note that this is not applicable for group chats on Telegram, as deleted messages will only vanish from your device and not others’ – as compared to WhatsApp granting users a one-hour time limit to effectively “Delete for Everyone” messages they had sent – because, according to a Telegram FAQ and TechCrunch, only a group’s admin can execute the “delete everywhere” function for messages in a group chat.

While Telegram is free, founder Pavel Durov has said the service will begin monetising the app in 2021 to support its growing amount of traffic and servers. Durov maintained that it will not sell the company “like the founders of WhatsApp” but it will start charging for premium stickers and introduce ads on massive public channels.

Telegram also supports voice and video calls with picture-in-picture mode. However, it does not support group video calls at the moment.

Signal

Signal boasted that it received record levels of downloads after WhatsApp announced their new privacy policy. The app is a favourite among the likes of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and privacy advocate Edward Snowden, with even Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeting his support for Signal recently.

The company claims its end-to-end encryption keeps user messages secure and that it does not track users for advertising or marketing purposes. Features include voice and video calls with multi-device support, group calls (currently limited to five participants) and the ability to mark some messages as unread. As the company is an independent non-profit, it relies on donations and grants to support development.

Threema

Threema bragged that its downloads are “skyrocketing” due to the WhatsApp privacy issue. It even said if that users are not paying for a service, then they are the product in a tweet on Jan 9.

Yes, you have to pay a one-time fee to start using Threema; RM12.99 on Android and US$2.99 (RM12) on iOS.

Users can set up a Threema ID without giving up their phone number or email address. All forms of communication on the service are claimed to be encrypted end-to-end using asymmetric cryptography (based on open-source library NaCl). As the Threema apps are open source, the company states that anyone with enough know-how could ostensibly confirm Threema’s security for themselves.

Features include voice and video calls – the latter of which users can also choose to deactivate – and the ability to create polls in chats. Unfortunately, Threema does not currently include support for group calls or fun features like stickers.

Element

Element runs on the Matrix ecosystem, an open network for secure and decentralised communication. It claims that user data stays secure with default end-to-end encryption minus third party access, data mining or spying.

Users can register via email and create a Matrix ID to keep their email confidential. Other features include the option to create rooms or group chats with restrictions to limit access, and to enable Key Backup to store messages and files in user devices with video and voice chat.

Element is free but users can upgrade to monthly plans starting from US$2 (RM8) for more features like a dedicated server to host all your data, custom DNS (domain name system) and more.

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