So many involved WhatsApp customers are leaving the app that it’s inflicting issues for rival Sign

Signal secure messaging app has recovered from an outage that prevented users from sending or receiving messages for more than a day this weekend. The login system also struggled to keep up with the influx of new users, likely due to concerns about a mandatory new privacy policy being introduced by Facebook’s own messaging app WhatsApp.

Signal, which is operated by a nonprofit and relies solely on donations to keep its business going, says it “expanded capacity” to cope with the sudden surge in new users.

Unfortunately, the secure platform has not disclosed exactly how many new users have joined the service in the past few days. However, the messaging service has skyrocketed the most downloaded charts on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. Speaking to the New York Times, surveillance firm AppTopia claimed that Signal added 1.3 million new users on Jan. 11 alone. Signal only takes a few more days and could quickly double the 20 million active users it counted as of December 2020.

And the weekend’s outage seems to prove that Signal’s popularity hasn’t entirely waned. In the past few days, SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been asking his millions of followers to download Signal – a message also confirmed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The influx of new users appears to be due to WhatsApp sending an in-app notification to users asking them to sign up for the new privacy policy. The Facebook-owned company had told users that if they don’t agree to the new terms, they won’t be able to use the chat app from next month. However, by the end of the week, WhatsApp postponed that deadline by three months to allay fears that users were being forced to agree to the fine print.

If the reports are accurate and millions of users are fleeing WhatsApp (privacy-focused messaging app Telegram has claimed it added 25 million new users to its ranks in three days this month), it’s not hard to see why the parent company is Facebook is affected. This recent surge in popularity with competing messengers is arguably due in part to reports that WhatsApp’s new privacy policy means users’ text messages and photos are visible to Facebook, which the company has vehemently denied.

Instead, changes to the privacy policy that affect more than two billion users worldwide will allow more data to be shared with Facebook when users notify a business or corporate account on WhatsApp. The chat app has long tried to monetize their business by pushing companies to communicate with customers via WhatsApp, as this is more familiar than online chat windows with customer service reps. It also has more built-in features, including the ability to send photos, videos, documents, and more.

Since sending messages to a business account on WhatsApp is completely optional, WhatsApp states that users will not see any impact from the new privacy policy unless they start a chat with a company.

WhatsApp users in Europe and the UK won’t see any changes in the US thanks to stricter data protection regulations in the European Union (although they still have to agree to an updated privacy policy). However, it is worth noting that Facebook can already see some data from WhatsApp users.

For example, when you register for a WhatsApp account, your cell phone number is sent to the parent company. Facebook can also display information about your mobile devices, including the make and model of the device you are using to access WhatsApp.

If you’re interested in some of the alternative chat apps, Express.co.uk has a comprehensive guide on the best chat apps to use in place of WhatsApp.

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