Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

13.22 18 Jan 2021


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Facebook and WhatsApp are two of the most widely-used apps around the world - but the past week has seen a large number of users start to move away from them.

It comes after the Facebook-owned WhatsApp announced changes to its terms of service for most countries.

While Europe was not impacted and WhatsApp has pledged that message will remain private, the likes of the US are nonetheless seeing closer integration of the messaging app and its parent company.

It's prompted concerns the same could happen here in the future.

Meanwhile, there’s been a massive uptick in downloads of the privacy-focused WhatsApp competitor Signal - boosted by support from prominent individuals such as Elon Musk.

On today’s Pat Kenny Show, tech correspondent Jess Kelly explained exactly what happened last week with the changes at WhatsApp.

Here's why so many people are moving from WhatsApp to Signal

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

She said: “There was one update for those of us living in the European region - the UK is included in that - and then another update for those living in other parts of the world.

“The difference for us in the European region is nothing at all… what they said is they were just making their terms of use that bit clearer. But in the US and the other parts of the world, there were closer ties between WhatsApp and the parent company Facebook - there were elements of data sharing going on there for advertiser and business use.

“Unfortunately, given the way the internet works, a lot of people misread that and thought we here in Europe were impacted by this. But there have been a hell of a lot of people up in arms over this.”

The Office of the Data Protection Commission says any similar change here means they would have to have ‘serious conversations’ with Facebook to ensure they’re compliant with GDPR data rules.

However, some people may still be considering deleting their Facebook account, and Jess said there are a few things for those people to keep in mind.

She explained: “The first thing to note is you don’t have to have a Facebook account to use WhatsApp… if you just want to use it and have no interaction with any other platform, that is completely fine: your messages are encrypted end-to-end.

“If you do want to leave Facebook… there are a few different steps you have to go through. Once you decide to permanently delete your account, it can’t be reactivated: your photos, posts, videos and everything will be gone.

“If you get rid of the main Facebook account, you won’t be able to use Facebook messenger.”

Jess recommends that anyone who is planning to delete their account should download their entire archive in Facebook’s privacy settings before deleting it.

However, she pointed out that one potential loss is that many businesses - especially small ones - “are using Facebook as a platform to interact with their customers” during the pandemic, a benefit you will lose if you delete your account.

You can rejoin Facebook at a later date, but you won’t be able to reactivate your previous account or friends list if it’s been permanently deleted.

Signal

In terms of Signal, Jess that one of WhatsApp’s co-founders Brian Acton is one of the main 'head honchos' behind the service.

He left the previous app after its sale to Facebook, citing concerns around monetisation.

Jess said: “What Signal offers is the same end-to-end encryption - you can do the same video or voice calls over the internet, but it is completely encrypted. They don’t give you the option to back up to the cloud… security is paramount.

“This is a non-profit organisation, and the business model is very much focusing on trying to put any money they make back into itself.

"They have a lot of investors who are very security-focused… they also rely on donations as well.”

Signal saw such a significant spike in downloads in recent days that there were temporary issues for people trying to verify security details with their contacts.

While those issues have been resolved, Jess said one of the key things to note for people changing over is that you can’t send messages to those who aren't using Signal themselves.

She said: “The thing with social media and these connectivity tools is they’re only useful if you have someone to talk through on them.

“If you wanted to move to Signal but your wife or daughters were still using WhatsApp… that’s no good for you. We need everybody who wants to to make the move across.”

Main image: File photo. Picture by: SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images

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