Signal is a secure encrypted messaging app. Think of it as a more private alternative to WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, iMessage and SMS. This is why you should seriously consider switching to Signal.
Why signal is special
Signal is available for Android, iPhone and iPad. There is also a Signal desktop client for Windows, Mac and Linux. To become a member, you only need a phone number. It is free.
Signal is not owned by a major technology company. Instead, Signal was developed by a nonprofit foundation and funded by donations. Unlike Facebook, Signal’s owners aren’t even trying to make money. Signal doesn’t try to collect a lot of data about you or show you ads.
While Signal has a very familiar interface, it’s very different under the hood. Your conversations in Signal are end-to-end encrypted, which means even Signal owners cannot track them. Only the people in the conversation can see them.
Signal is also completely open source. The source code for the project’s client apps and server software is available on GitHub.
How (and why) Signal is so private and secure
All communication on Signal – including one-to-one messages, group messages, file transfers, photos, voice calls and video calls – is end-to-end encrypted. Only the people involved in the communication can see them. Encryption takes place between the individual devices using Signal. The company that operates Signal couldn’t see these messages, even if it wanted to. Signal actually made its own encryption protocol for this.
This is very different from traditional messaging apps. For example, Facebook can access everything you say in Facebook Messenger. Facebook says it won’t use the content of your posts for ads, but are you sure this will never change in the future?
Certainly, some other messengers offer encrypted messages as an optional feature. But everything on Signal is encrypted, always and by default. Signal also offers other privacy features, including self-destructing (disappearing) messages that are automatically deleted over time.
Facebook Messenger also collects a lot of data about you. Most companies collect a lot of data. Signal isn’t trying.
Even Signal is subpoenaed on you and forced to disclose what it knows about you, the company knows next to nothing about you and your Signal business. Signal can only reveal your account phone number, the date of the last connection, and the time the account was created.
Facebook, on the other hand, could reveal your full name, everything you said on Facebook Messenger, a list of geographic locations you accessed your account from, and so on.
Everything in your Signal app – messages, images, files, and so on – is stored locally on your phone. You can manually transfer data between devices, but that’s it.
You can create an app used by millions of people without data … Cool chart by @forbes & @UKZak 🙈🙊🙉 https://t.co/gWFqyIeoZ3 pic.twitter.com/Unngddaq5M
– Signal (@signalapp) January 5, 2021
Why is Signal suddenly so popular?
Signal’s end-to-end encryption is its great feature. That’s why so many people use Signal – because they’re concerned about privacy. In early 2021, it was endorsed by everyone from Elon Musk to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, topping Apple and Google’s app store charts.
But Signal didn’t come out of nowhere – it was founded in 2013. It is a widely respected piece of software that has long been used by privacy advocates and other activists. Edward Snowden endorsed Signal back in 2015.
Signal identifies you by your phone number
Although your communication on Signal is private, you are not anonymous. You need a phone number to sign up for Signal. To talk to someone on Signal, your phone number is your identifier on Signal.
That’s how it is designed – Signal is designed as a drop-in replacement for SMS. When you sign up for Signal and install the app, you will be prompted to access the contacts on your phone. Signal securely scans your contacts to see which of them are Signal users too. It only examines the phone numbers and checks whether those phone numbers are also registered on Signal.
So if you and someone else are communicating via SMS, you can install Signal as well as switch easily. When you install Signal, you can see which of your contacts you can message via Signal instead of SMS. You don’t have to ask them what their Signal handling is – it’s just their phone number. (However, you can verify the security numbers associated with a call to make sure you are talking directly to the person you think you are. That’s another useful security feature in Signal.)
If you’re concerned that other people you talk to on Signal have your phone number, try signing up with a secondary phone number. But, realistically, if you’re looking for a chat solution that doesn’t rely on phone numbers – say, an anonymous chat solution that only uses usernames instead of phone numbers – then SIgnal isn’t what you’re looking for.
Get started with Signal
Signal is easy to get started. Simply download the official Signal app from the Apple App Store for iPhone and iPad or Google Play for Android. Go through the setup process to give Signal a phone number and access to your contacts. (Contact access is optional, but Signal is designed to work best with it.)
You can then start a conversation from within the app. If you have someone in your contacts and that person’s phone number is associated with a Signal account, you will see that you can contact them via SIgnal. It’s seamless.
Want to talk to someone on Signal instead of another chat app? Just ask them to download it and sign up. You will even be notified when someone you know signs up for Signal.
You can also download the Signal desktop app for Windows, Mac or Linux from the SIgnal Foundation website. This will sync messages from the Signal app on your phone to your computer. However, it is optional.
RELATED: Can you use Signal without giving it to your contacts?