© Illustration photo: Arun Sankar / AFP The logo of the WhatsApp application, on the home screen of a smartphone.
The controversy surrounding the new conditions of use for WhatsApp messaging has led many Internet users to go to other applications, considered more secure. Two of them have gained a lot of users in recent days: Signal and Telegram.
Signal, the messaging system that goes up
© Illustration photo: Lionel Bonaventure / AFP In France, Signal was the most downloaded application, Wednesday, January 13, on Google Play, the Google application store.
The numbers: From December 28 to January 4, Signal was downloaded 246,000 times, worldwide. The following week, ie after the WhatsApp announcements, this figure rose to… 8.8 million. This is what emerges from data delivered by the analysis firm Sensor Tower and relayed by the BBC, the British radio, and television. At the end of last week, this explosion of registrations caused technical problems: the sending of the verification codes, necessary to use the application, was delayed, the company explained on Twitter.
How does it work? Signal offers “end-to-end” encryption, meaning that no one is supposed to be able to read your messages or listen to your calls. A function also offered by WhatsApp. The difference is, Signal is developed by an American non-profit foundation, the Signal Foundation. WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook, and the name of the social network has appeared in several files related to the use of personal data, such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The other difference is that if the conversations are well encrypted on WhatsApp, the platform still has access to personal data, such as your phone number, underlines the specialized American site Wired. Signal ensures that it only has access to two pieces of information about its users: the date of creation of the account, and that of the last use of the application.
Why does it work? In recent days, Signal has been able to count on several big publicity stunts. On January 7, Elon Musk, the founder, notably of the space company SpaceX, published this message on the social network Twitter: “Use Signal” . The man who became the richest man in the world has more than 42 million followers on Twitter. Another post on Twitter on January 7 praised the app. This is signed Edward Snowden, the former US intelligence analyst turned whistleblower. Responding to a question about the reliability of the application, he writes: ” I use it every day and I am not dead yet”. Note that Signal has had a good reputation for several years now. An example: last year, the European Commission asked its teams to use messaging, as Politico magazine then pointed out.
Telegram, the biggest increase
© Illustration photo: Dado Ruvic / Reuters The Telegram app logo.
The numbers: In the week of December 28 to January 3, Telegram was downloaded 6.5 million times. From January 4 to 10, that figure was 11 million, again according to Sensor Tower data reported by the BBC. On Twitter, the messenger says it has registered 25 million new users in the last 72 hours and claims more than 500 million active users.
How does it work? Telegram also offers end-to-end encryption … But not all the time. “Her main flaw is in the way she approaches communications security. Indeed, the most secure mode is not activated by default. You have to go to the options of the application to activate it for a conversation, ” notes the specialist site Numerama . Messaging also ensures that with its security protocols, it is “more secure” than platforms like WhatsApp. The telegram was founded by two Russian brothers, Pavel and Nikolai Durov. “Messaging has no business model, advertising or subscription: everything is financed by the personal fortune of the Durovs,” Numerama notes in another article. According to the American financial review Forbes, Pavel Durov would weigh more than 2.7 billion euros.
Why does it work? Telegram’s name has been coming back to conversations about privacy for several years now. “The messaging system has notably recorded a dazzling success in the context of the revelations of large-scale surveillance of the former American intelligence consultant Edward Snowden, a refugee in Russia”, indicated Agence France-Presse in 2018. That same year, Telegram had refused to give the FSB, Russia’s domestic intelligence, “keys” to decipher messages from users. The Russian authorities then tried to block the messaging, without success according to Reuters, before authorizing it again in 2020. But the name of Telegram is also associated with controversies. After the Paris attacks in 2015, several media highlighted the use of Telegram by terrorists. messaging had blocked thousands of accounts linked to the Islamic State terrorist group. In 2016, Patrick Calvar, then head of the French Directorate-General for Internal Security, described Telegram as “the main network used by terrorists”.