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Moving from WhatsApp to Signal

Why do so many people want to move off WhatsApp? We offer some help and further background to the story

Several of the examples below are using the desktop version of WhatsApp or Signal as that’s often easier to use.  Most of the same capabilities should be available on the mobile (cell phone) version too. Software products commonly undergo frequent change so instruction may vary from the examples shown. 

WhatsApp is owned by FaceBook.

Busy readers

In brief: it’s time to abandon WhatsApp. The best alternative is Signal.  The rest of this web page aims to give more detail by answering likely questions. 

What's this all about?

Millions of users are so unhappy with a policy change at WhatsApp that they are switching to similar but more secure Signal or Telegram in their millions.  The outrage is so great that Facebook (owners of WhatsApp) are responding, so far just defensively but if the exodus of users and negative press coverage continue maybe they’ll relent.  Meanwhile to keep up the pressure on Facebook to do the right thing, don’t click the button to say you accept the WhatsApp policy change and why not get started with Signal just in case?

How to move away from WhatsApp

What you need to do is move to another platform, the front-runners being Telegram and Signal, my choice is Signal and that’s what I will focus on.

Your first step is to get the relevant app:

  • Download on mobile from your app store (or https://signal.org/install)
  • There are versions for Android, Windows (and for Apple, a fashion brand of Veblen goods with only about 15% mobile market share, less for desktop/laptop).
  • On Desktop go to https://signal.org/en/download/, you can then link that to your mobile version of Signal.
  • The app needs to be able to see your contacts list.  You can only link to users who are there and who have a valid mobile number.
  • There are two problems
    • You probably have existing WhatsApp groups you don’t want to lose. Move to Signal NOW and tell everyone in those groups that you are doing but keep WhatsApp until May. Send any new messages using WhatsApp.  That does mean anyone who’s not moved will be missing out on your wisdom…
    • You may have past WhatsApp messages you’d like to keep.  That’s possible, read on for a “how to” guide. 
Why move away from WhatsApp?

The answer is that WhatsApp is changing its policy to share more of your personal data with its parent company, Facebook.

WhatsApp users will be seeing a pop-up addresssing the change with an “agree” button, no other choice so I assume that  if you’ve not agreed, it will stop working. In response millions of users switched to more secure alternatives in a matter of a few days.  The response from WhatsApp was to extend the end-date from 8 Feb to May. 

Many of us avoid using Facebook or at least lock down the privacy settings as far as possible and make minimal use of the app.  That’s because Facebook captures more personal data about users than the other major culprits (Amazon, Google, Microsoft) and are more inclined to share it with third parties (e.g. Cambridge Analytica).  Facebook bought WhatsApp for US$19Bn a few years ago, now they want a return on that investment: the ability to capture more of your data to build a still more extensive profile of you and your network of contacts – beyond the wildest dreams of FBI and the KGB.

Large numbers of users, especially the IT literate and those concerned about their privacy, now want to move away from WhatsApp to Signal (or something else).  I understand Signal are coping with a huge surge in demand .

The story has also reached the mainstream media https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/whatsapp-privacy-rules-signal-app-store-elon-musk-b1785455.html

And not just the “quality” press, the tabloids too: https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/13684416/what-is-signal-whatsapp-users-change-app/

Those two are just examples, almost all media outlets print, online and TV have covered the story.


How to Keep WhatsApp chats

Unfortunately WhatsApp doesn’t provide a useful export option. There is a backup option but that creates an encrypted file, all you can do with that is import it back to WhatsApp.

The only alternative is to save the text from individual chats.  That doesn’t save attached images.

Saving the text is not difficult.  You need to open WhatsApp on a PC (I expect it can be done on a mobile too but a big screen is easier).

The tricky bit is that you need to highlight all messages in the chat, for a big chat that means a lot of scrolling down. This is a quicker way (on PC).

  • Go to the top of a chat
  • Click to select the first item (a date)
  • Press the PC keyboard End key, that takes you to the bottom of the list of the selected group or individual chats.
  • Hold down the Shift key and click the last message in the chat. The entire group chats should now be highlighted
  • Press CTRL-C to copy everything to scratchpad
  • Open an empty page in some kind of text editor (MS Word, MS Notepad, whatever you’ve got)
  • Press CTRL-V to paste from scratchpad
  • Save the file

In MS word each pasted message looks like this

Phil, I will have to cry off tomorrow

In Notepad there’s some extra information like this

[09:38, 29/10/2020] +44 xxx xxx xxxx [phone number redacted]: Phil, I will have to cry off tomorrow

It would be great if Signal were able to develop an import module to import from one of those text-file exports.

Getting started with Signal

Signal messages are strongly end to end encrypted but only when both parties are registered signal users, not just SMS (text message) contacts.  The Signal app needs access to your phone contacts list but importantly the providers of the Signal service have no access to that list, addressing is all handled locally on your device.

Your first obstacle is trying to get your WhatsApp correspondents to change to a different app, there’s no quick fix.  That’s why Facebook waited several years after buying WhatsApp before making this policy change – the user-base is so large it will be difficult to move.  Their cynical calculation is that you will prefer a loss of privacy over a load of hassle.  Ironically privacy was originally one of the attractions of WhatsApp.

Sending a message: Click compose (pencil icon), choose a recipient (individual or group).

Type in the “Signal Message” box.  From the same screen you can start a video chat (movie camera icon, top of screen) Voice chat (Phone icon, top of screen), send an image (camera icon, bottom of screen) or voicemail (microphone icon, bottom of screen).

Message status is indicated by one of 4 icons sending, sent, delivered and read https://support.signal.org/hc/en-us/articles/360007320751-How-do-I-know-if-my-message-was-delivered-or-read-

To create a new group : Click compose (pencil icon) then New Group. Add names from your contacts list, when all done click the blue arrow then enter the group name. You can add users who are not (yet) using the signal app but it limits what the group can do.

As well as text chats, groups can join shared voice or video sessions a bit like Zoom but limited to 5 participants https://support.signal.org/hc/en-us/articles/360052977792-Group-Calling-Voice-or-Video

How to Keep WhatsApp images & videos

I’m not aware of an easy way to do this in bulk, it’s a matter of right click on each, copy, paste into any image editor program*. 

To make it a bit easier, if you left-click an image it opens a bigger version (on PC).  Across the bottom of the screen is a film-strip of all images in the chat.  That makes it quicker to scroll through them all and find those you really want to keep.

* My preferred image editor is IrfanView, it looks a bit old-fashioned but it’s exceptionally fast and very versatile, it’s free but I paid the author as I find it so useful (download and install the plugins too).

What’s different about the changed T&Cs for WhatsApp?

WhatsApp was originally intended to get away from the Facebook type business model of exploiting user data for their own financial benefit.  If I recall correctly, at first WhatsApp wanted a small payment (US$1 p.a.). My guess was that there may be an increase when there was a reasonable user-base, maybe for additional features.  Requesting a small payment was also a slight disincentive to the creation of multiple or fake accounts. 

The creators of WhatsApp were offered US$19Bn by Facebook in 2014.  No surprise that the founder’s ethics went out of the window for an offer like that. There were undertakings from Facebook in respect of  not combining user information from Facebook and WhatsApp.  They invoked the ire of the EC for doing just that and in 2017 the EC fined them 100M Euros.

How to move chat groups from WhatsApp to Signal

You can’t.  What you can do is create a Signal group and invite the WhatsApp members to join it by posting a link in the WhatsApp group.  Alternatively you can add the users yourself, you need their phone number to be in your mobile phone contacts but remember everything works best if your contacts also switch to Signal.

Who uses Signal?

People for whom confidentiality really matters including numerous high-profile names including:

  • Elon Musk a founder of PayPal and CEO of Tesla – one of the top ten wealthiest individuals
  • Edward Snowdon (who leaked loads of US CIA/NSA) files and fled to Russia where he remains to avoid prosecution. 
  • Elizabeth Denham (the UK Information Comissioner – for whom data confidentiality is her day job) was asked by a UK MP whether she uses WhatsApp [NO] (to which she added not Facebook either)  and so what does she use for messageing? [SIGNAL]


Might Signal get sold to one of the internet giants too?

Who knows.  The reason I think it unlikely is the involvement of Brian Acton.  He was one of the founders of WhatsApp and received an estimated US$3.8Bn from the sale to Facebook.  He left to join Signal in 2017 reportedly because he disapproved of the direction Facebook was taking with WhatsApp.  Had he stayed with Facebook for a futher year stock options worth around US$¾ Bn would have matured. 

If his plan was to add to his estimated  US$3.8Bn wealth by selling surely it would have been worth sticking around at Facebook long enough to pick upthe stock option.

How reliable is Signal?
The question arises because in the few days after the WhatsApp announcement became widely discussed Signal suffered a few hours service disruption.  That is no reason to consider Signal unreliable, a few hours later WhatsApp was having technical difficulties too.

Computers do encounter technical problems, even Google has had outages in the past year , most recently 14 Dec 2020

Outages of a few hours are unfortunatly not unusual, the real problem is when they last longer, remember TSB online banking’s problems in 2018.

Signal have been upgrading there IT capacity as fast as possible to handle a massive increase in new sign-ups as millions abandon WhatsApp.  Signal has become the number one download in both Apple and Android (Google) App stores.

The Signal userbase is still tiny in comparison to WhatsApp billions, maybe 1% of the size and these apps depend on having large communities of users.  WhatsApp are gambling on their large userbase remaining loyal but these apps can fall out of favour: remember MySpace?

Might WhatsApp reconsider?

They are haemorrhaging millions of users.  People have been becoming more aware of the intrusive nature of Facebook in particular.  To some extent, becoming more privacy aware now is “locking the stable door after the horse has bolted”.

It’s not possible to undo the damage already done but we can stop throwing more fuel on the fire.  If Facebook/WhatsApp don’t reconsider the whole event may backfire on Facebook with users not only leaving WhatsApp but, if not quitting Facebook, at least paying more attention to their Facebook privacy.

Whether they relent or not, it’s time to switch away to a better service.

UPDATE: They have reconsidered – up to a point.  They have shifted the date by which you must approve the change from 8 Feb to May.  That’s all. The policy change remains but they will use the extra 3 months to “better communicate their intentions”.  They point out that the change doesn’t affect those in the EU (and UK) which begs the question why are we being asked to approve something that doesn’t affect us?

Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook) has a long stated intention to bring integrate all his online properties onto a single system (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp).

The fact remains: WhatsApp shares 16 of your data items, Signal shares none

Why Signal rather than Telegram?

It’s your choice.  I’ve done some investigation and concluded that I prefer Signal but Telegram is widely regarded as a privacy/security improvement over WhatsApp and has some features not found in Signal.  The details are, well details! and the topic can get a bit technical but a couple of headline aspects:  Signal encrypts messages. In Telegram, if my understanding is correct, it’s possible to turn on full encryption in a private chat but it’s not the default setting and not available in group chats.  There is also some discussion about just how secure their encryption algorithm is.

Both Telegram and Signal are nominally Open Source software but the Telegram encryption algorithm is private.  With Open Source,  anyone can view the underlying program code.  In the past there have been concerns that if hackers can see how everything works they are in a better position to find and exploit weaknesses.  In practise it’s almost the opposite.  There’s a massive IT community and many companies reward coders well for identifying problems with the code.

As a coder, that’s better than the alternative of becoming involved with criminality to try to sell information about a potential security weakness. According to the BBC, an elite bug hunter can make GB£250,000 a year.  The IT community reports that the Telegram code is harder to understand using terms like “spaghetti coding” making it harder to spot problems.

I doubt I'm a KGB target and this security stuff is just an unnecessary hassle, why should I bother?

You’re right (probably!) for most reasonably law-abiding citizens in first-world nations Government and their security agencies probably don’t represent a significant risk.  Secure communications apps are more widely appreciated by those in more authoritarian regimes.  Those governments are not happy with this level of privacy as they can’t snoop on their citizens.  They make attempts to block usage or make it a criminal offence. Russia banned Telegram in 2018 but having found it imposible to enforce the ban, backed down in 2020. List of websites blocked in Russia – Wikipedia.  The situation in China is worse List of websites blocked in China – Wikipedia. But let’s not forget that Trump tried to ban Chinese social media app WeChat – Wikipedia

So what’s the problem with Facebook’s data collection policies? It’s about “Big data” (see below), Facebook isn’t alone in harvesting masses of data, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and others do too. One difference is that people make masses more personal information available on Facebook, where and when they’ve been, who they’ve met etc.

The other main risk is Identity Theft, we all need to be aware of the risks.  The best protection  is to only share your personal data on a need-to-know basis.

Identity theft is facilitated by the widespread view that personal day to day trivia is of no value to a criminal.  Wrong.  For example a burglar is interested in knowing when your house is empty because you’ve gone shopping or are on holiday, but the consequences of identity theft can be a lot worse than a domestic burglary.
A criminal organisation will create a collection of minor personal details.  An email to a friend wishing them a happy 50th birthday reveals their date of birth – how often have you been asked for date of birth, full name, email address as evidence of identity when you phone a service provider for some minor query.

Little details in aggregate become evidence of your identity.

Identity theft is a real-world problem with very frequent instances of UK citizens being scammed of tens of thousands of pounds.  Even the relatively minor cases when a small-time crook has used your ID to buy a handful of £1000 mobile phones is going to take a few days effort to prove it wasn’t you and re-establish your credentials.  Once you’ve been through that process you will definitely be keen not to repeat it.

Doesn't WhatsApp claim to be secure?

Yes but they aren’t telling the whole story.  This much is true: messages you send are encrypted, only the intended recipient can read them. The problem is with what’s called meta-data.  That’s information about who you communicate with and what computers you are using. Unsurprisingly Facebook are keen to talk about the benefits of message encryption and remain silent about intrusive use they make of meta-data.

In May 2021 they started an advertising campaign.  That disregarded the concern that led to so many departures from WhatsApp in January but focussed on the fact that messages are encrypted, presumably hoping people would have forgotten the original issue.

That doesn’t seem so important but it is.  Information about the computer you use is sufficient to make a “digital fingerprint”.  You leave that fingerprint wherever you go on the internet.  You will probably have noticed that sometimes you’ve made a Google search for a specific topic and maybe visited a couple of relevant websites, suddenly you start seeing relevant adverts and links elsewhere on your internet usage.

A personal example: I wanted a “Garden room” (a shed to use as an office).  I’d researched various options online.  For days after that wherever I went on the internet I got adverts for sheds and YouTube wanted to show me videos about building sheds.

That might not be a problem but lets suppose I’d been researching something more sensitive like a birthday gift of lingerie for my wife.  Next time I want to show her a video I’d found and adverts popped up relating to lingerie she might make inferences (especially if the gift was not intended for her!).

Can the FBI, GCHQ, FSB (formerly KGB), Mossad etc read Signal messages?

Nobody can say with absolute certainty but currently vanishingly improbable, if anyone can it’s only by using massive computer resources and they’ll be very selective on whose messages they read.

Wouldn’t it be for the public good if the authorities could intercept criminal and terrorist communications? It would but that comes at the cost of them being able to read any messages.  You might not be unduly concerned the GCHQ knows what time you’ve arranged to meet your mum in Sainsbury’s but if you were an enemy of a totalitarian state they’d know where and when to send their assassin.

Some totalitarian states have attempted to ban secure messaging apps. Russia tried in 2018 but, having failed, backed down in 2020.

They probably can’t read WhatsApp messages either.  We need to be a bit more cautious about Telegram, it is widely used in totalitarian states in the belief that it is secure but the IT community lacks complete confidence in the encryption methods used and notes that Telegram encryption is off by default.

What’s “big data” and what's the problem with it?

People are beginning to take more notice of how they start to see adverts or links to websites and online videos related to some topic they’ve been discussing with a friend minutes earlier.  As well as explicit online activity like search and email voice assistants like Siri, Alexa and “OK Google” seem to be part of the issue.  It spooky and intrusive.  We still see spy movies and TV detective dramas where a house or hotel room is bugged, a GPS tracker concealed in a vehicle, and IT Geek secretly taps into phone and email conversations – well that’s old-hat.  We buy the bugs ourselves.  Every movement is tracked by the mobile phone we paid £1000 for.  Everything we say and write is read.  Our fitness bands are reporting pulse rate and sleep patterns.  ANPR and other surveillance cameras are everywhere, some linked to facial recognition systems.  It’s OK, we are told, it’s not people seeing the data just computer algorithms.  As if that’s better!  It’s not, it’s infinitely worse.

We can all benefit from big data, the NHS can use it to establish a correlation between medications and reports of side effects.  The Zoe app, using daily updates from 4 million UK residents, was able to find that some people reporting loss of the sense of smell fell ill with Covid 19 a few days later establishing that fact as an early warning of probable infection.

Other uses of big data are for different beneficiaries – Google use it to build a profile of your interests and will serve you some commercial advertising links, still targeted but there are other beneficiaries: Google (advertising revenue) and their advertisers (product sales).   We regard that as a fair trade, we pay nothing for the benefit of Google’s billions of dollars invested in internet search in return for tolerating a few well targeted adverts.

Facebook (and others) have vast databases of these small pieces of information about everyone reading this. Small pieces of information, useless on their own, increase in value as they get tied to other items.  When databases from different sources get linked the value increases still further.  Smart usage of those combined sources can be very useful, the issues are useful to whom?  and Where do we draw the line?

I read recently that by the time a child finishes secondary school these data aggregators will hold as much as 20 million data points about each, much of it seemingly inconsequential like which web browser they use or what their PC screen size is.

In this particular instance WhatsApp had drawn “a line” its users were comfortable with and that Facebook had indicated they’d respect.  The security aware members of the WhatsApp community, finding that committment was to be discarded with a few weeks notice, felt betrayed.

I’ve used combining data from different sources myself on a small scale.  I needed to do conversions between UK postcodes and map coordinates for a web site.  At the time the only option was commercial and expensive. I was able to get some relevant data files from different sources at no cost. Each file contained some, but not all, the data I needed but there was a data field in common between the two sources.  That meant I could take a record from one file and use the common field to find the corresponding record in the other file.  Combining the two records provided all the data I needed.  I’ve did something similar to provide a currency conversion utility.  (That was some years ago, both those service are now widely available at little or no cost.)

We think that aggregated data is just used to target advertising toward us but it’s more sinister. It can pre-select news stories to be those the algorithms think we’d most like to see, in the process eliminating any opinions that might diverge from ours.  That’s very much the way press and TV works in (modern) Russia, it’s state controlled so most citizens are fed a continual stream of good news about Russia and bad news about Western Europe and USA.  In China it’s even worse. The aggregate data can make pretty reliable inferences about political leanings, sexual orientation, religion.  In most developed countries we tend to under-rate the significance of that but all those factors are grounds for state sanctioned discrimination in many places. 

On a larger scale that’s how hackers gain the information for identity theft, people don’t mind giving out individual data items but I hope most would baulk at a request for all of: passport number, driving license number, mothers maiden name, first pet, date and place of birth, national insurance number, bank account number and sortcode, credit card number, name of first school.  Individually none are especially sensitive but in combination someone knows a lot about you.  Add to that biographical details, contacts, photos easily harvested from social media.  Next there’s the issue of your internet usage.  It’s possible to identify an individual PC with a high degree of confidence from the data it reveals to web sites.  Again the individual data points seem unimportant: screen characteristics, browser version, processor chip (see more here https://webkay.robinlinus.com or here https://coveryourtracks.eff.org/).

An individual hacker may be able to supplement that information with such as an estimate of the speed you use the web site or may have some kind of inside knowledge, an employee of your broadband provider could sell your contact details so enabling a hacker to impersonate a technician from that provider to gain access to your PC or to extract some kind of payment from you. I expect we all get the scam telephone calls purporting to come from Amazon Prime demanding immediate payment or your account will expire.  How much more effective might those calls be if it was only Amazon Prime customers getting them?  Might a rogue employee gain access to that information and sell it? Or might a hacker gain access to Amazon computer systems?  Such major security breaches are regularly in the headlines, there must be many more.  Only a few days before I wrote this SolarWinds a major global IT security specialist suffered a major security breach Security Advisory | SolarWinds If an organisation like that can have problems, so can anyone.

Just what is it that Facebook collects?

There’s more to the problem than what Facebook collects, there’s also what they do with that information and how they take care of it.

In 2019 the details of 500,000,000+ Facebook users were leaked (including over 11million UK users).  The information included phone numbers, email address,  birthdate, occupation, location Facebook ID, full name, account creation date, marital/relationship status, biographic text. In 2020 the data could be bought on the dark web for as little as USD2 per record.  In 2021 the entire 70GB database was released (on the dark web), free. Facebook’s response was “This is old data that was previously reported on in 2019. We found and fixed this issue in August 2019“. Fixed only in so far as that fault in their system was fixed, your data is still out there, some information may be out of date but your date of birth won’t be. The information will be used for social engineering, scamming, hacking and marketing.

The following is adapted from something produced by https://9to5mac.com/ so one can’t exclude the possibility of a degree of bias towards Apple systems.  On the other hand, just look at their verdict in respect of Signal.

You will notice that some of the data items are a bit vague for example what is “other user content“?  I don’t know, maybe whatever source 9to5mac used could help.

There are two primary factors: what data is collected and what is shared with third parties.  No app should collect more than it need to function well, there is the risk that their security may be compromised (see above!).  The other issue is when unnecessary data is being collected and then shared with third parties and used in ways we might not approve of.

Signal Apple iMessage WhatsApp


Signal stores your phone number for the sole purpose of using it for your communications (which are end-to-end encrypted by default.)

  1. Email address
  2. Phone number
  3. Search history
  4. Device ID


  1. Device ID
  2. User ID
  3. Advertising Data
  4. Purchase History
  5. Coarse Location
  6. Phone Number
  7. Email Address
  8. Contacts
  9. Product Interaction
  10. Crash Data
  11. Performance Data
  12. Other Diagnostic Data
  13. Payment Info
  14. Customer Support
  15. Product Interaction
  16. Other User Content

So you can see WhatsApp collects rather more data than Signal or iMessage and Facebook collects still more.  Notice that every data type in WhatsApp is also collected by Facebook raising the question: What extra data can Facebook collect from WhatsApp?

The answer is not to look at the data types but the userbase.  Some users chose WhatsApp because it was considered not to be unduly intrusive.  Those users may be new to being profiled by Facebook. I do have a Facebook account but I visit maybe half a dozen times a year and even then it’s very rare for me to do more than  view someone else’s content, they don’t know much about me.  So the answer is that they would get access to a larger userbase and to more information about those who already use Facebook.

Faceboook Signal
Advertising Data Advertising Data
Audio Data
Browsing History
Coarse Location Coarse Location
Contacts Contacts
Crash Data Crash Data
Customer Support Customer Support
Device Id Device ID
Email Address Email Address
Emails Or Text Messages
Gameplay Content
Other Data Types
Other Diagnostic Data Other Diagnostic Data
Other Financial Info
Other Usage Data Other User Content
Other User Contact Info
Payment Info Payment Info
Performance Data Performance Data
Phone Number Phone Number
Photos Or Videos
Physical Address
Precise Location
Product Interaction Product Interaction
Purchase History Purchase History
Sensitive Info
User Id User ID

And then there are the uses to which Facebook apply that data: Analytics, App Functionality, Developer’s Advertising Or Marketing, Other Purposes, Product Personalization, Third-Party Advertising.  What are the implications? Again I’m afraid I don’t know, maybe whatever source 9to5mac used could clarify.

What’s happening with WhatsApp is simply adding more data to FaceBook’s data harvesting to improve their user profiling.  The ultimate aim is to generate more revenue and it’s reasonable to expect that WhatsApp may start to include links or advertising to that end.

Advanced security

Switch doesn’t share your data. The program itself is secure. That doesn’t mean it’s entirely risk free.  The typical internet user has fewer concerns but if you’re interested, read on…

I don’t want to scare anyone,  the advanced security settings are most important for those persons whose activities may be of interest to oppressive regimes.

A few examples:

If your mobile phone gets stolen the thief could get access to your messages if the phone isn’t password (or biometric) protected.

Your on-screen keyboard could get replaced by one that copies your keystrokes to a third party.

One of your contacts could have his mobile stolen and the thief send you fake messages.

Many users may not be unduly concerned, by moving away from WhatsApp you’ll have made a big improvenent in privacy and security but you can go still further.

Read the next item for some actions you can take to mitigate those other risks.

Advanced security settings

Read the previous item before this, it’s not for everyone…

The first consideration involves how you use  Signal.  It is both a secure messaging app and an SMS (text message) app.  The secure messaging, exchanging messages with other Signal users, is encrypted, SMS messages aren’t. To avoid confusion it is better to use a separate SMS app and restrict Signal to conversations with other Signal users.

The soft (on-screen) keyboard on mobile can send information to a third party. A common example is the Google keyboard.  Google are not operating with any malign intent, by tracking your usage they can better provide smart-autocorrect, word and phrase completion short cuts.   However if you don’t trust Google to act with integrity numerous alternatives can be found here (Android).  Or you can go Signal Settings > Privacy > Incognito Keyboard.

Audio chats over Signal  potentially leak the IP (the internet address) address of those involved in the chat, to prevent that go Signal Settings > Privacy > Always relay calls this is NOT the default setting (because there’s a significant impact on audio quality)

You could investigate Signals “sealed sender” feature which adds another layer of security over the messages you send.

More Signal security related settings here.

But EU and UK are not impacted by the change are they?

Nominally true.  But in that case why are EU/UK users being asked to agree to the changed T&C? 

The bottom line is the Facebook want to find ways to extract more of your personal information for their own financial benefit.  Maybe for EU/UK users they need to tread more carefully but their intentions, their direction of travel is to dig further into your personal life.

Facebook "pull the plug" on Australian users 17 Feb 2021

Well not completely but faced with having to pay to use news stories from Australia they imposed restrictions.  An example of how wrong they were was that anyone in Australia reading advice about Covid 19 on Facebook would no longer get information from legitimate news sources and the health service but would get all the fake news and conspiracy theories.

So what? It’s a demonstration of their power, many people make extensive use of Facebook.  Facebook has a right to do anything they wish with your account and access.  They’ve always had that power and have used it to cancel users for a range of gross misbehaviours – posting pornographic images for example.  Most would agree that taking some social responsibility is a good thing even if their position is largely reactive (take stuff down in response to complaints), it should be proactive (identify and block at point of creation).  Going beyond that to block legitimate news is flexing their muscles, what next? Maybe if you don’t choose to accept WhatsApp T&C at some future date you’ll find you’re unable to use any Facebook properties (in addition to WhatsApp, Instagram is another prominent example).

The consequence of the change has resulted in a massive backlash against Facebook by users in Australia in part because the breadth of the censorship was so broad as to include charities, a small bookshop and and even a domestic violence support service.  Facebook said that the breadth of its blocks is regrettable, but as Australia’s law “does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted.”

So on the one hand Facebook are telling telling advertisers it offers superior micro-targeting services while on the other saying they are unable to tell the difference between a newspaper and a bookshop.

So what?

It has long been a fact of life that whoever controls the news controls everything.  In the second half of the 20th century in particular, newspaper magnates in “Western democracies” have aimed for influence by buying rivals for prices hard to justify on the basis of their sales and have extended their influence by buying TV and Radio channels (resulting in challenges by such as the UK monopolies commission, at time of writing I believe it’s called the Competition Commission). That’s why the first action in a military coup was for a long time siezure of the Radio & TV broadcasters.  It’s the reason Russsia blocks BBC radio broadcasts.  Dictatorships ensure they have control of all sources of news. In more recent times journalists who have proved “awkward” to the Russian state have met with “accidents”.

The advent of the internet has changed that.  Control has extended to Internet access as with “the Great Firewall of China” for example.  We’ve come to accept that this is how dictatorships operate and however misguided we believe it to be we’ve been impotent to do much about it, the only solution is replacement of the dictators.

The new monopolists are primarily Facebook, Amazon and Google. All are primarily interested in generating wealth primarily for their founders, we should probably add Apple, Microsoft and maybe Elon Musk.  I say “monopolists” and then list several, isn’t that a contradiction?  No because they are primarily operating in different areas, although “advertising” is a common thread.

Of those Facebook is the greatest concern (although Twitter can shoulder some responsibility).  That’s because of the way Facebook builds a profile of your interests then feeds you with news they think you want more of.  So if you love Jeremy Corbyn (you must be his mum!) you’ll get positive stories about him, all your news is filtered.  It’s as if you voluntarily signed up to a Kim Jong-un or run Putin state you are asking to be indoctrinated, you are handing power over your life to Mark Zuckerberg.  Remember Facebook started out as a site for (male) university students to rate girls, just what kind of a “great mind” is that?

Moving away is too difficult...

The problem is that you may be in WhatsApp groups with others and it’s impossible to get them to change.  OK I understand but still the reasons to move remain.  The alternative is to keep WhatsApp  install Signal and ensure that any NEW group uses that.  Discourage people finding you in WhatsApp by  going settings> account> privacy and under Photo and About choose “My contacts” or “Nobody”.

WhatApp is in vogue at present but there are too many social media apps some have already gone (Google Plus and MySpace for example), more will follow.

Who else has moved to Signal?

The list of names was always like a “Who’s Who” of the security community, that’s extended to include many more of the IT community and high-profile public figures.  One interesting finding is that the leak of 500,000,000 Facebook profiles in 2019 included the details of one Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. Using Zuckerberg’s leaked credentials an investigator has found that he uses Signal.  What better recommendation could there be than the owner of a competing App choosing to use that of his competitor? 

So what about FaceBook itself?

Personally I found it difficult to totally avoid so I do have an account but only to see what others are posting, I keep as much of my data as possible confidential and never post messages.  It’s higly intrusive and a goldmine for scammers, identity theives, hackers and anyone with ill-will towards you.  Each account generates over USD30 a year in advertising revenue for Zuckerberg who I regard as a sleazeball.  

Roger Waters (of  “Pink Floyd”) summed up my feeling very well:

Zuckerberg offered him what Waters described as “a huge, huge amount of money.” to use the Pink Floyd song ‘Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)’ to which Waters responded “**** you! No ****ing way!”
He concluded by poking fun at the undignified origins of Facebook as a site for rating the attractiveness of female Harvard students: “How did this little prick – who started off by saying, ‘She’s pretty; we’ll give her a 4 out of 5. She’s ugly; we’ll give her a 1 – how the **** did he get any power? And yet here he is, one of the most powerful idiots in the world.”