Signal User Count Surges After Elon Musk’s Tweet, Whatsapp Policy Change

Elon Musk told his followers to 'use Signal' as the messenger service's user count skyrocketed.
Chris Young

Encrypted messaging app Singal is seeing an influx of new users signing up to its service following a privacy policy update from Facebook-owned WhatsApp, and an endorsement from Elon Musk on Twitter.

As Ars Technica reports, Signal has seen so many new users sign up that there have been delays in phone number verifications of new accounts.


Confusion surrounding WhatsApp's privacy policy update

It all started when WhatsApp outlined a new privacy policy that is set to go into effect next month. Compared to previous policies, the new one contains no indication that it will allow users to opt-out of data sharing with parent company Facebook.

Instead, the policy directly states that WhatsApp will share data (including your phone number, profile name, and address book info) with Facebook.

"As part of the Facebook family of companies, WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, this family of companies," the new privacy policy says.

"We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings," it continues.

Now, Facebook employees have gone as far as taking to rival social media platform Twitter to say that, effectively, nothing has changed.

Still, several posters replied to Niamh Sweeney's thread above stating they had deleted their WhatsApp accounts.

Signal's Elon Endorsement

Around the same time, Elon Musk, who has been critical of Facebook in recent times, tweeted "Use Signal" to his 41.6 million followers.

Musk, who was recently announced to be the richest man in the world, also posted a meme satirizing Facebook's role in this week's attack on Congress.

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All of this seems to have had a cumulative effect, resulting in millions of users leaving WhatsApp for Signal, a privacy-focused non-profit service co-founded and funded by Brian Acton, the WhatsApp co-founder who left the company when he became disillusioned with Facebook's privacy practices.

As The Verge points out, WhatsApp has released a lengthy statement saying that the policy update does not actually change the way data is shared between the messaging app and Facebook.

It appears now that years of shady practices, epitomized by the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal, may be coming to a head with many users leaving WhatsApp for good. 

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