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Home / Tips and Tricks / Why Elon Musk wants you to use Signal, not Facebook – and how it works

Why Elon Musk wants you to use Signal, not Facebook – and how it works



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The Signal app encrypts all your messages to others on the platform.

Roy Liu / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Tech mogul Elon Musk – widely known for cars swing in the path of the sun as he is to advocate against COVID-19 security measures – took to Twitter last week to report Facebook on the latest privacy policy updates for its supposedly secure encrypted messaging app WhatsApp. Musk instead, recommended users opt for the encrypted messaging app Signal.

The tweet was then retweeted by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Shortly after, Signal tweeted that it was in the process of tackling the wave of new users.

Musk’s Twitter endorsement also caused stocks in biotechnology company Signal Advance to skyrocket, despite being totally unrelated to Signal, which is not a publicly traded company.

This isn’t the first time Musk has publicly been sparring with Facebook about privacy concerns. In 2018, he had not only his own personal Facebook page removed, but also that of his companies Tesla and SpaceX. His take on the long-fought battle between Signal and WhatsApp isn’t off-base, however.

Both encrypted messaging apps are found to have security bugs over the years that have been resolved. For years, WhatsApp has openly collected certain user data to share with parent company Facebook. The latest policy change only expands that. Signal, on the other hand, has a history of fighting any entity requesting your information, and adds functions to further anonymize you where possible.

Here are the Signal basics you should know if you’re interested in using the secure messaging app.

What Signal Is And How Encrypted Messages Work

Signal is a typical one-tap setup app found in your normal marketplaces like Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store, and works just like the usual text messaging app. It’s an open source development offered for free by the non-profit Signal Foundation and famously used for years by high profile privacy icons such as Edward Snowden.

Signal’s main function is that it can send text, video, audio and picture messages protected by end-to-end encryption after you verify your phone number and you can independently verify the identity of other Signal users . You can also use it to make voice and video calls, one-on-one or with a group. For a deeper dive into the potential pitfalls and limitations of encrypted messaging apps, CNETs Laura Hautala’s interpreter is a life saver. But for our purposes, encryption is key to Signal.

Despite the buzz around the term, end-to-end encryption is simple: unlike normal text messaging apps, your messages are garbled before they are sent, and are only revealed to the verified recipient. This prevents law enforcement officials, your wireless carrier, and other investigative entities from reading the content of your messages, even when they intercept them (which happens more often than you may think).

When it comes to privacy, it’s hard to beat Signal’s offering. It does not store your user data. And aside from its encryption ability, it gives you extensive onscreen privacy options, including app-specific locks, blank notification popups, anti-blurry face tools, and disappearing messages. Occasional bugs have proven the technology to be far from bulletproof, of course, but the overall arc of Signal’s reputation and results has kept it at the top of every privacy-conscious person’s list of identity protection tools.

For years, the main privacy challenge for Signal was not in the technology, but in its wider adoption. Sending an encrypted Signal message is great, but if your recipient isn’t using Signal, your privacy may be nil. Think of it like the herd immunity created by vaccines, but for your messaging privacy.

Now that Musk and Dorsey’s statements of support have sent a wave of users to create a privacy booster, that challenge may be a thing of the past.


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