WhatsApp and Signal both offer end-to-end encryption. This technology works by scrambling the messages so that only the sender and receiver are able to put them back together. End-to-end encryption makes messaging more secure by making it impossible for any third party, including the app maker itself, to see the message contents.
However, we often hear that Signal is more private and secure than WhatsApp. Even we frequently recommend Signal as the most private messaging app out there. What exactly is behind this assertion? Between Signal and WhatsApp, which one is better? Read on for a detailed comparison.
Is Signal safer than WhatsApp?
WhatsApp and Signal both use the same encryption protocol developed by Open Whisper Systems. This protocol is open-source and peer-reviewed, making it trustworthy. While they use the same encryption, Signal has a number of security advantages over WhatsApp:
When you send out a message or a photo, you are also sending out metadata. Metadata includes information about who the message is sent to, when the message was delivered, and more. While the content of messages is protected by end-to-end encryption, this metadata—information about the message—is not. If encryption is a lockbox, metadata is the postage label taped on top of it. Even without opening the box, you can already learn a lot by reading the label.
WhatsApp does not protect metadata. This means third parties may see information about the messages. In contrast, Signal developed a technology for protecting metadata called Sealed Sender. This technology hides information about the sender and the recipient, so even the postage label is unreadable.
Read more: What is metadata and what does it mean?
In addition to the messages and the metadata, messaging services can also collect information stored on your phone. This information includes your phone number, contacts, avatar, location, media, and device details. There is a major difference between how WhatsApp and Signal treat this information.
On the other hand, Signal is owned by the Signal Technology Foundation. It is a registered non-profit organization that is run on user donations. One of the founders, Moxie Marlinspike, was Twitter’s head of cybersecurity. He developed Signal’s end-to-end encryption protocol, which was later adopted into popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, and Facebook Messenger.
Which messaging app is most secure?
Between WhatsApp and Signal, Signal wins hands-down as the more secure messaging service. While both use end-to-end message encryption, Signal provides more metadata privacy and doesn’t share your data with third parties. Since Signal is privately owned and non-profit, it will likely remain the more secure option in the near future.
That said, we aren’t necessarily recommending that you stop using WhatsApp. Admittedly, its end-to-end encryption is still a highly respected standard of privacy protection.
Frequently asked questions: Signal vs. WhatsApp
Is Signal better than WhatsApp?
Depends on what you are looking for. While Signal has better privacy features, there are other areas where WhatsApp has the advantage. For example, Signal has 20 million monthly users, WhatsApp has approximately 2 billion. This makes it far more likely that you will find your friends on WhatsApp.
Is Signal more private than WhatsApp?
Yes. While both messaging services use end-to-end encryption, Signal does a better job of protecting user metadata. Unlike WhatsApp, Signal won’t share your data with third parties.
Which encryption protocol does WhatsApp and Signal use?
Both these services use the Signal protocol for their end-to-end encryption. This protocol is developed by the Signal Foundation, the same people behind Signal.
What personal data is collected by WhatsApp vs. Signal?
Here is a quick table of the information collected by each messaging service.
|Phone Number||Collected and shared||Stored on server|
|Device ID||Collected and shared||For transmission only|
|User Identifiers||Collected and shared||For transmission only|
|Location||Collected and shared||Not collected|
|Transaction data||Collected and shared||Not collected|
|Product interaction||Collected and shared||Not collected|
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