Signal vs. WhatsApp: Comparing Privacy Features for User Protection
WhatsApp is still the most popular messaging app, with over 2 billion active monthly users. But extensive data collection and other safety issues of this application make people look for more privacy-focused options – and that’s where the comparison of WhatsApp and Signal often arises. Although both apps are end-to-end encrypted, Signal is considered much more secure and private. Or is it? Read along to find out.
WhatsApp and Signal comparison. A quick look
If you don’t have time to go through the entire article, here’s a brief comparison of the main privacy and security aspects of Signal and WhatsApp.
|Encryption||✅ End-to-end encrypted||✅ End-to-end encrypted|
|Data collection||Requires only phone number||Collects data and shares it across Meta services|
|Metadata protection||✅ Yes (via Sealed Sender)||🚫 No|
|Ownership||Signal Technology Foundation (non-profit organization)||Meta (owns Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Threads, and more)|
|Safety number||✅ Yes (adds verification status to each contact)||✅ Yes (doesn’t add verification statuses)|
|Screen lock||✅ Yes||✅ Yes|
|Private notifications||✅ Yes (hidden message content and sender’s name)||✅ Yes (hidden message content)|
|Call relay||✅ Yes||🚫 No|
|Disappearing messages||✅ Yes (individual or all chats)||✅ Yes (only individual chats)|
Now, let’s jump into details and compare the main privacy and security features of the Signal app vs. WhatsApp to determine which app is safer.
Signal vs. WhatsApp security: Which app is better?
When comparing Signal and WhatsApp in terms of their safety, we considered the most significant features they provide, as well as the amounts of data they collect and the reputation of the companies owning them. Without further ado, let’s dive into the overview.
Round 1. Encryption
As mentioned, both Signal and WhatsApp provide end-to-end encryption. But how does it work, exactly?
In a nutshell, it means that all your messages (including text, voice, and video chats) are available only to you and the person you’re communicating with. While in transit, the message’s content is transformed into a code no one else can read. So third parties (including Internet providers, hackers, snoopers, and even the application itself) can’t compromise your private data.
Signal was the first messaging application that introduced end-to-end encryption, using their own cryptographic protocol – Signal protocol. WhatsApp followed this trend and introduced end-to-end encryption in 2016. Both apps use the same open-source encryption technology – Open Whisper Systems. So it’s safe to say that when comparing Signal encryption vs. WhatsApp, they are equally effective.
But this is not the only factor that impacts the security of your communication. The thing is that, unlike Signal, WhatsApp doesn’t hide your metadata, so certain information remains vulnerable (keep reading to learn more).
🏆 Who wins: Draw
Round 2. Metadata protection
Simply put, metadata is small pieces of information you share every time you send a message, photo, video, and so on. Even if the messages’ contents are end-to-end encrypted, metadata remains visible and can tell a lot about you (who you’re sending the message to, when it’s sent and delivered, and more).
WhatsApp doesn’t protect your metadata, which means that those details can be exposed to third parties. On the other hand, Signal offers Sealed Sender – the function that hides metadata from all potential snoopers, including the app itself.
🏆 Who wins: Signal
Round 3. Data collection
Signal is a non-profit organization, which means that the company doesn’t benefit from your private details. The only thing the app needs is your phone number to verify your device.
🏆 Who wins: Signal
Round 4. Ownership
When choosing a privacy-focused messaging application, it’s important to take into account the company behind it. Big corporations, such as Google and Meta, are often associated with collecting excessively large amounts of customer data for analytical and advertising purposes.
Meanwhile, the owner of Signal is the Signal Technology Foundation registered as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. It relies on user donations and uses open-source software (which means that anybody can verify its code in terms of transparency and security).
🏆 Who wins: Signal
Round 5. Privacy and security features
Apart from end-to-end encryption and data protection policy, there are a bunch of other important features to consider when determining the difference between Signal and WhatsApp. Here are the most critical functions these messaging apps provide.
Privacy and security features of Signal:
- Safety number. Signal offers a handy security feature that allows you to verify new contacts and maintain private communication. Every Signal contact receives a unique set of numbers and a QR code. When you start a conversation, you can verify the person’s identity and prevent a potential security attack.
- Screen lock. If you turn on the screen lock feature on Signal, the app will require additional verification (passcode or biometric identification) to let you in. You can set up a custom screen lock inactivity timeout (from instant to 1 hour).
- Private notifications. Signal has flexible options in terms of hiding notifications from the locked screen. You can hide not only the message’s content, but also the sender’s name.
- Call relay. This feature comes in handy if you want to hide your IP address from the person you’re calling via Signal. If you enable this function, your call will go through Signal servers, so your IP won’t leak.
- Disappearing messages. This Signal function lets you automatically erase your messages in a given period of time on your and the recipient’s devices. You can activate it for all your contacts or the chosen chats only.
Privacy and security features of WhatsApp:
- Verify security code. This feature works similarly to Signal’s safety number. But you won’t be automatically notified if your contact changes their code. Besides, it doesn’t add the verification status to your contacts.
- Screen lock. This function is pretty much the same as in Signal. You can set up the time when you want WhatsApp to lock the screen and require entering your passcode, Face ID, or Touch ID to enter the app.
- Private notifications. WhatsApp lets you hide messages’s content when your screen is locked. You can’t conceal the contact’s name, though.
- Disappearing messages. WhatsApp also allows you to make your messages disappear after a while. But unlike with Signal, you can only apply it to the chosen chats.
🏆 Who wins: Signal
Round 6. User experience
Now that we compared Signal vs. WhatsApp features, let’s see what users have to say about these messaging applications in terms of privacy and security.
Many users on Quora appreciate Signal because of the greater data protection it provides:
Most agree it outperforms WhatsApp when it comes to users’ privacy and security:
Finally, some Reddit users point out that even Mark Zuckerberg (the owner of Meta) prefers Signal to WhatsApp!
🏆 Who wins: Signal
So, is Signal safer than WhatsApp?
Looking for the safest messaging application to keep your communication private? Check out our ultimate list of the most secure messaging apps.
Still, no application is bulletproof. Data leaks may still happen, whatever messaging app you’re using. That’s why it’s always better to empower your cybersecurity toolkit with additional tools, such as a virtual private network (VPN) to protect your privacy, prevent unwanted monitoring, and avoid various online dangers.
Why do you need a VPN to communicate online?
Signal, WhatsApp, Telegram, Wickr, and other messaging applications encrypt your messages. But this encryption isn’t applied to your entire traffic. So snoopers can still compromise your private data and spy on you.
That’s where a VPN comes to the rescue. A premium service like VeePN will cover all your Internet activities with AES-256 – the most powerful encryption standard to date. It will transform all your messages and Internet requests into unreadable text. So even if third parties try to compromise you, they won’t be able to crack your personal information. Besides, a VPN reroutes your traffic through a remote server and masks your real IP address, making your online presence untraceable.
VeePN’s got all you need to communicate online safely. In particular, it offers an extra security layer – the Antivirus feature for Android and Windows. It will help you stay away from viruses and malware and regularly check up on your device in terms of potentially malicious activity.
Check out VeePN’s pricing plans, download the app on your preferred device, and enjoy next-level security. It takes just a few clicks to get started!
FAQ: Signal vs. WhatsApp Privacy
Does WhatsApp collect data?
Does Signal collect data?
Signal collects some customer data, including your mobile phone number. The app needs it to verify your device when you start using it. But unlike WhatsApp, Signal doesn’t collect other private info, such as in-app interactions, contacts, location, and device details. Check out this article for more details.
Why do people use WhatsApp instead of Signal?
Currently, WhatsApp is the most popular messaging application, with over 2 billion active monthly users. Overall, it’s a free, convenient, and well-designed app with many handy features and a simple interface. But if you prioritize your privacy and security, Signal is a better choice. Read this article to find out why.
Is Signal better than WhatsApp for privacy?
Yes, when comparing Signal privacy vs. WhatsApp, Signal is a better option. Although both apps are end-to-end encrypted, Signal offers more privacy and security gems. In particular, it protects users’ metadata, collects less information about users, and is owned by a non-profit organization. Check out this article for more details.
Is Signal owned by WhatsApp?
No, Signal is owned by the Signal Technology Foundation – a non-profit organization that exists thanks to users’ donations. Meanwhile, WhatsApp belongs to Meta – a big corporation that also owns Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Threads, Workplace, and other apps.
Why is Signal safer?
Signal is safer than many other messaging apps thanks to a couple of powerful privacy and security features it offers, including the following:
- End-to-end encryption messages
- Metadata protection
- Safety number verification
- Call relay
- Disappearing messages
Read this article to find a detailed comparison of Signal messenger vs. WhatsApp.