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Signal Downloads Increased Drastically After WhatsApp Updated Its Policy And Terms To Share Data With Facebook

Signal, a private messenger app, topped on both Google and Apple’s app stores on Wednesday, January 13, in the US as the app saw 7.5 million downloads across the globe over the last week. This huge boost in downloads of Signal comes as users looked for alternatives to WhatsApp – a Facebook-owned app. 

Why is Signal very popular all of sudden?

WhatsApp released an update to its privacy policy and terms of service on January 4. It notified its users that they would have to agree to share some personal data with its parent company Facebook. The users have until February 8 to agree upon the terms or will lose access to the app. However, this does not affect users in Europe and the UK due to data protection rules in those jurisdictions. 

Following this development, Signal, a rival encrypted messaging service, has grown in popularity largely.

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“From January 6 to January 10, Signal saw approximately 7.5 million installs globally from across the App Store and Google Play,” a Sensor Tower representative said. It is about a 4,200% increase from the previous week.

The Tesla boss and the world’s second-richest person – Elon Musk’s tweet – “use Signal” – has also been credited for the shift towards WhatsApp’s alternative.

Besides it, the surge in Signal downloads can also be related to Parler, the social networking service popular with supporters of President Donald Trump.  After the Capitol riots in Washington DC, Parler was banned by Amazon, Apple and Google. Apple said, “Parler has not upheld its commitment to moderate and remove harmful or dangerous content encouraging violence and illegal activity, and is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines.”

Telegram also saw a significant rise in the number of users

Telegram, an encrypted messaging app on Tuesday, Jan 12, said more than 25 million new users flocked to its service from around the world in the previous 72 hours, according to CNN.

The app now has around 500 million active users and is now second in the Google Play and App Store. 

WhatsApp’s Response

In a statement on Monday, WhatsApp said the update “does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way.” It explained that the update will include “changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.”

The app says that the information shared with Facebook is to “help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings.”

Brian Acton, the co-founder of both WhatsApp and Signal, told TechCrunch that Signal won’t replace WhatsApp despite Signal’s booming popularity. He believes people will use the two services for different conversations.

“My desire is to give people a choice,” he said. “Otherwise, you’re locked into something where you have no choice. It’s not strictly a winner take-all scenario.”

While Signal and Telegram are thriving around the world, WhatsApp saw downloads reduced to 10.6 million, down from 12.7 million the week before. However, WhatsApp is still by far the most popular messaging app among the three. According to Sensor Tower, since 2014, Signal has been installed about 58.6 million times and Telegram about 755.2 million times globally, whereas WhatsApp has had a massive 5.6 billion installations – almost eight times as many as Telegram and 96 times as many as Signal.

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