WhatsApp hits back as users flee to Signal and Telegram

Facebook is scrambling to deal with a sudden competitive threat to its WhatsApp messaging platform after a change in its terms of service sparked privacy concerns and prompted users to turn en masse to rivals such as Signal and Telegram.

The encrypted messaging app, which has more than 2 billion users worldwide, and several of its senior executives spent Tuesday trying to clarify upcoming privacy policy changes covering data that may be shared between WhatsApp and its parent company now that it is deepening its push into e-commerce.

Signal was downloaded 8.8 million times globally in the week after the WhatsApp changes were announced on Jan. 4, up from 246,000 times the week before, according to Sensor Tower data.

The app also received a boost when Tesla chief executive Elon Musk tweeted “Use Signal” on January 7.

In contrast, WhatsApp recorded 9.7 million downloads in the week following the announcement, up from 11.3 million previously, a drop of 14%, Sensor Tower said.

Telegram, a messaging app popular among cryptocurrency traders, has also benefited from WhatsApp concerns. It hit 11.9 million downloads the week after the Jan. 4 change from 6.5 million the previous week, Sensor Tower said. In a message sent to all of its users on Tuesday, Telegram said it has now passed 500 million active users.

Some users have interpreted WhatsApp’s new policies to suggest that users’ sensitive data will be shared with its parent company for the first time, including even the content of messages, sparking outrage on social media – and a forceful correction from the society.

WhatsApp said in a declaration posted Monday evening that the policy update, which goes into effect on February 8, “in no way affects the privacy of your messages with friends or family,” adding that she wanted to respond to “rumors that circulate ”.

While no app is allowed to access messages, WhatsApp’s privacy policies have allowed it since 2016 to share certain other user data with its parent company.

According to the latest update, Facebook and WhatsApp will now also be able to share certain payment and transaction data to drive publicity as the company moves into e-commerce with the development of digital storefront features such as Facebook Shops.

The changes also describe how merchants who communicate with their customers through WhatsApp can choose to store those chats on servers hosted by Facebook and use that data to inform their advertising on Facebook.

Several senior company executives took to Twitter on Tuesday to publicly defend the changes, including Adam Mosseri, chief executive of Instagram, who also belongs to Facebook. “There is a lot of misinformation on ToS WhatsApp [terms of service] right now, ”he said.

Signal was co-founded by WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton after leaving the company following disagreements over user privacy and its lack of independence from its parent company.

The sudden surge in user numbers at Signal and Telegram has raised the question of whether small applications are ready to scale. Last week Signal said it “continues to break traffic records and add capacity” after encountering problems with creating groups on its services and delays in sending verification codes. to users.

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