Privacy: better WhatsApp, Telegram or Signal?

We can no longer take our privacy for granted, it's our duty to inform ourselves: here are the differences between WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal.

Wracked by the fuss caused by the latest update of the privacy policy, largely unjustified since it doesn't change much compared to the past, WhatsApp is increasingly tightened even if it tries to reassure its users: your data is protected and all chats are encrypted. But users are starting to try new apps, such as Telegram and Signal, and some are never coming back.

A single tweet by Elon Musk, the head of Tesla and Space X, in which the billionaire invited everyone to use Signal was enough to send this app into a tailspin: millions of users signed up in the space of 24 hours (from 10 million to 50 million users) and the platform couldn't withstand the sudden shock, going down for a few hours. But Telegram also saw a nice increase, reaching its first 500 million users. WhatsApp is still way ahead, with over 2 billion people using it, but the competition is really starting to feel it. But is this rush towards Signal and Telegram really justified? Which is better for privacy between WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal?

Privacy on WhatsApp

WhatsApp, among the three messaging apps, is definitely the one that collects the most data on users. The chats are protected with end-to-end encryption, with the same protocol as Signal, but the platform collects such a large amount of data, from the precise location to the list of contacts on the smartphone, that it's even difficult to list them all.

Privacy on Telegram

Telegram is more discreet than WhatsApp and collects less data about the user: name, phone number, contacts, user ID and IP address. Nothing else, but to be honest it's not very little. The chats are encrypted, but with the MTProto standard that is less secure than the Signal one, also used by WhatsApp. Among other things, encryption must be activated from the options, it is not active by default.

Unfortunately Telegram does not have an impeccable history of security and in the past has been "hacked" several times with the result that the data of about 60 million users ended up online. Telegram, by the way, is one of the favorite messaging apps for those looking for groups on illegal IPTVs.

Privacy on Signal

Signal is a white fly in the current Web landscape: it doesn't collect any data about the user other than their phone number, it's run by a non-profit foundation, and it's totally open source. The encryption protocol, as the name suggests, is Signal (yes, Signal is the name of both the encryption standard and the app).

Signal has always been the app of choice for privacy lovers. The famous messages that self-destruct as soon as they arrive on WhatsApp, for example, have been around for a long time on Signal. Signal is so secure and privacy-friendly that the likes of The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal recommend it to their users when they want to report to journalists.