Elon Musk wants you to use Signal instead of Facebook – here’s why and how it works


The Signal application encrypts all your messages intended for other users of the platform.

Roy Liu / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Tech mogul Elon Musk – known for launch cars into the orbit of the sun as it is to defend against COVID-19 security measures – took to Twitter last week to slam Facebook over its latest privacy policy updates for its supposedly secure encrypted messaging app WhatsApp. Musk instead, recommended users choose the Signal encrypted messaging app.

The tweet was then retweeted by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Soon after, Signal tweeted that it was struggling to cope with the influx of new users.

Musk’s endorsement on Twitter also incidentally led the shares of biotech company Signal Advance to skyrocket, despite it being completely unrelated to Signal, which is not a publicly traded company.

This isn’t the first time Musk has publicly argued with Facebook over privacy issues. In 2018, he not only had his own personal Facebook page deleted, but also those of his companies Tesla and SpaceX. His take on the long-standing battle between Signal and WhatsApp is not off-base, however.

Both encrypted messaging apps Was found have security bugs over the years that have been resolved. For years, WhatsApp has openly collected some user data to share with parent company Facebook. His latest policy change only extends that. Signal, on the other hand, has a history of fighting any entity that requests your data, and adds features to further anonymize you to the extent possible.

Here are the Signal basics you need to know if you want to use the secure messaging app.

What is Signal and how encrypted messaging works

Signal is a typical one-click installer app that you can find in your regular markets like the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, and works like the regular text messaging app. It is an open source development provided free by the nonprofit Signal Foundation, and has been used for years by leading privacy icons like Edward Snowden.

Signal’s primary function is to send text, video, audio and photo messages protected with end-to-end encryption, after verifying your phone number and allowing you to independently verify the identity of other Signal users. You can also use it to make voice and video calls, one-to-one or with a group. For a deeper dive into the potential pitfalls and limitations of encrypted messaging apps, CNET Laura Hautala’s explanation is a lifeline. But for our purposes, Signal’s key is encryption.

Despite the buzz around the term, end-to-end encryption is straightforward: unlike normal SMS messaging apps, it scrambles your messages before sending them, and only strikes them for the verified recipient. This prevents law enforcement, your mobile operator, and other surveillance entities from being able to read the content of your messages even when they intercept them (which happens more often than you think).

When it comes to privacy, it’s hard to beat Signal’s offer. It does not store your user data. And beyond its encryption prowess, it gives you extensive on-screen privacy options, including app-specific locks, blank notification pop-ups, blurry anti-surveillance tools, and disappearing messages. Occasional bugs have proven that the technology is far from bulletproof, sure, but Signal’s overall reputation and results arc kept it at the top of every privacy-savvy identity protection tool list.

For years, Signal’s main privacy challenge was not in its technology, but in its wider adoption. Sending an Encrypted Signal message is good, but if your recipient isn’t using Signal, your privacy may be zero. Think of it like the collective immunity created by vaccines, but for the privacy of your messages.

Now that Musk and Dorsey’s approvals have sent a wave of users in for a privacy booster photo, that challenge may be a thing of the past.

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