Is Signal more secure than WhatsApp?

Signal Hero
(Image credit: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central)

Is Signal more secure than WhatsApp?

Best answer: Yes, potentially. While both Signal and WhatsApp use secure encryption, given that WhatsApp is owned by Meta (the parent company to Facebook), there is a certain amount of metadata that is able to be retained from using the app, even if the messages themselves are encrypted. It’s this uncertainty that makes Signal at least appear to be users to be the more secure option.

What is Signal?

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Signal is an instant messaging app that first became popular when Elon Musk recommended it back in January 2021 with a simple Tweet. He was prompted by Facebook having updated its privacy policy at the time and directed his followers to “use Signal” instead. At that time, the Tweet drove Signal’s shares to rise exponentially. 

The app, which is available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop computers, is powered by the open-source Signal Protocol. Launched in 2013, Signal is now run by a non-profit called the Signal Foundation, which received a $50 million donation from Brian Acton, ironically the founder of WhatsApp, back in 2018, a year after he left WhatsApp. Acton serves as interim CEO of Signal Messenger LLC. 

What draws users to Signal is the end-to-end encryption, powered by the aforementioned Signal Protocol, which the company says allows you to “speak freely.” All conversations sent and received through the Signal service are secure, with the company, nor anyone else by the recipient and their device, can read the messages, see the photos, or listen to calls. A message is only decrypted once it arrives at the intended recipient’s device.

How to move from WhatsApp to Signal

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Signal only collects your phone number, which is necessary to sign up (though you could use a Google Voice number if you don’t want to include your real one), while your name and photo (should you choose to upload one) aren’t even known to the company. With WhatsApp, since it is owned by Meta, that company can access some WhatsApp data and collect it for differing purposes, as per the privacy policy. 

Signal works similarly to WhatsApp and other IM services, with the ability to send text-based messages as well as images, videos, emoji stickers, and GIFs. You can also make audio calls, set up group conversations, and more. The service uses your phone’s data, so you won’t pay additional SMS or MMS fees. Some recent additions to the Signal app include things like a release chat feature for checking change logs, a bubble icon next to a message in conversations, and checking replies to a message within a conversation. 

There are no ads or trackers with Signal, and it’s entirely free to use: the company is entirely supported by grants and donations, which adds to its credibility as a secure and safe place to chat. 

With more than 40 million users to date and a clean track record when it comes to data breaches, Signal is easily one of the best messaging apps. And it’s quickly becoming a dominant force in the instant messaging app space. While it’s clear Signal is very secure, some believe it’s more secure than WhatsApp simply because it does not have any ties to large tech companies, whereas WhatsApp does.

Christine Persaud

Christine Persaud has been writing about tech since long before the smartphone was even a "thing." When she isn't writing, she's working on her latest fitness program, binging a new TV series, tinkering with tech gadgets she's reviewing, or spending time with family and friends. A self-professed TV nerd, lover of red wine, and passionate home cook, she's immersed in tech in every facet of her life. Follow her at @christineTechCA.