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WhatsApp vs Telegram vs Signal: Comparing privacy policies

By Yasmine Jacobs Time of article published Jan 11, 2021

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Cape Town - WhatsApp has recently announced a new privacy policy that will see a change in how its parent company, Facebook, collects data from its 2-billion user accounts. Due to privacy concerns, this has resulted in a surge of downloads of alternative communication apps such as Telegram and Signal.

But what does the updated privacy policy mean for your data and security? And do you know what are the privacy policies for the alternatives?

IOL TECH takes a look at the privacy policies of WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal to help you decide whether leaving the WhatsApp life is for you.

WhatsApp

What data is stored and where?

WhatsApp collects your account information, as it is required that you provide your mobile phone number and basic information (including a profile name of your choice) to create a WhatsApp account.

WhatsApp stores your connections, status information and stores transactions and payments data. “If you use our payments services, or use our Services meant for purchases or other financial transactions, we process additional information about you, including payment account and transaction information,” says WhatsApp’s privacy policy.

The messaging service does not retain your messages in the "ordinary course“ of providing its Services to users.

“Your messages are stored on your device and not typically stored on our servers. Once your messages are delivered, they are deleted from our servers.”

WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption, this means that your messages are encrypted to protect against WhatsApp and third parties from reading them.

Automatically Collected Information include usage and log Information, device and connection information, location information and cookies.

WhatsApp said it uses Facebook’s global data centres to store data, adding that even if you don’t use location-related features, it will collect “IP addresses and other information like phone number area codes to estimate your general location (city, country).”

Advertising

Currently, WhatsApp still does not allow third-party banner ads on its Services. “We have no intention to introduce them, but if we ever do, we will update this Privacy Policy.”

It is worth noting that as part of the Facebook Companies, WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with other Facebook Companies and uses this data to make suggestions for users, personalising features and content as well as showing relevant offers and ads across the Facebook Company Products.

Third-party parties and payments

WhatsApp receives information about users from other users - and vice versa. For example, when other users you know use its Services, they may provide your phone number, name and other information just as you may provide theirs.

It also receives user reports. Users can report other users for various reasons so when a report is made, information on both the reporting user and reported user are collected.

Lastly, businesses you interact with using WhatsApp may provide the company with information about their interactions with you.

“When you message with a business on WhatsApp, keep in mind that the content you share may be visible to several people in that business. In addition, some businesses might be working with third-party service providers (which may include Facebook) to help manage their communications with their customers.”

WhatsApp also works with third-party service providers and other Facebook Companies to help us operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market its Services.

Who the app may share data with

By agreeing to the Terms and Conditions, you agree to the part where WhatsApp shares information with its parent company Facebook and Facebook companies.

The company also said it will access, preserve and share your information with authorities to respond to legal process or government requests, enforce Terms and any other applicable terms and policies, including for investigations of potential violations; detect, investigate, prevent, or address fraud and other illegal activity or security and technical issues; or protect the rights, property, and safety of our users, WhatsApp, the other Facebook Companies, or others, including to prevent death or imminent bodily harm.

Telegram

What data is stored and where?

With Telegram, you provide your mobile number and basic account data (which may include profile name, profile picture and about information) to create a Telegram account.

You also provide your e-mail address when you enable 2-step-verification for your account or store documents using the Telegram Passport feature.

There is also a function called secret chats that uses end-to-end encryption. This means that all data is encrypted with a key that only you and the recipient know. Telegram does not store secret chats on their servers.

Telegram uses and stores phone number and contacts to notify you as soon as one of your contacts signs up for Telegram.

You can always stop syncing contacts or delete them from the servers in Settings > Privacy & Security > Data Settings.

If users signed up from the UK or the EEA, the data is stored in data centres in the Netherlands. “These are third-party provided data centers in which Telegram rents a designated space. However, the servers and networks that sit inside these data centers and on which your personal data is stored are owned by Telegram. As such, we do not share your personal data with such data centers. All data is stored heavily encrypted so that local Telegram engineers or physical intruders cannot get access.”

Advertising

Telegram uses cookies but notes in the privacy policy, that it only cookies to operate and provide our Services on the web. “It does not use cookies for profiling or advertising. The cookies we use are small text files that allow us to provide and customize our Services, and in doing so provide you with an enhanced user experience.”

Third-party parties and payments

Telegram does not process payments from users and relies on different payment providers around the world. In this case, the payment providers handle and store your credit card details. Neither Telegram nor the merchants on the platform (bot developers) have access to this information.

Your credit card information never reaches Telegram's servers and it does not access nor store your credit card information.

Shipping Information is sent directly to the merchant bot developer. However, Telegram can store your shipping information for you if you choose to save it for future purchases.

Who the app may share data with

As stated in the privacy policy, Telegram may share information with other Telegram users. “Note that by entering into the Terms of Service and choosing to communicate with such other users of Telegram, you are instructing us to transfer your personal data, on your behalf, to those users in accordance with this Privacy Policy.”

Telegram may also share your personal data with its parent company Telegram Group Inc, located in the British Virgin Islands and Telegram FZ-LLC, a group member located in Dubai. This is to help provide, improve and support our Services.

Telegram may also share your information with law enforcement authorities.

So what about Signal?

Thanks to Elon Musk, Signal was recently put into the spotlight as a viable WhatsApp alternative.

It has been touted as one of the safest messaging service and uses the open-source Signal Protocol to implement end-to-end encryption.

You provide Signal with the following data: Account information, such as number, profile name and profile picture as well as messages. Your message history is stored on your own devices.

Additional technical information is stored on our servers, including randomly generated authentication tokens, keys, push tokens, and other material that is necessary to establish calls and transmit messages. Signal limits this additional technical information to the minimum required to operate the Services.

You also provide your contacts details and user support.

As with WhatsApp, Signal works with third parties to provide some of our Services.

“For example, our Third-Party Providers send a verification code to your phone number when you register for our Services. If you use other Third-Party Services like YouTube, Spotify, Giphy, etc. in connection with our Services, their Terms and Privacy Policies govern your use of those services.”

Signal will also share your data to meet any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request or to detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security, or technical issues.

IOL TECH

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