Great Alternatives to WhatsApp, According to Experts

There's always competition

Key Takeaways

  • A new WhatsApp privacy policy has users looking for alternatives.
  • The policy has caused concern that it allows WhatsApp to share messages with its parent company, Facebook.
  • One expert recommended the app Signal, because of its privacy features.
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WhatsApp’s new privacy policy is causing many people to reconsider using the messaging app, and experts have suggestions for alternatives.

The new privacy policy has some concerned that it allows WhatsApp to share messages with its parent company, Facebook. WhatsApp said recently that users who don’t agree to the policy by May 15 would no longer be able to send or read messages from the app. Fortunately, there are many other secure messaging apps available if you don’t agree to WhatsApp’s terms.

"The best alternative is to switch to a messenger like Signal, which does not collect user data and share it with Facebook or other third-party advertisers, while also providing strong end-to-end encryption for messages," Ray Walsh, data privacy expert at privacy website ProPrivacy, said in an email interview.

"If companies like WhatsApp/Facebook hope to leave a long-lasting legacy, they need to appeal to the customers of tomorrow."

Time’s Almost Up

If you don’t agree to the WhatsApp privacy policy, you’ll still be able to receive calls and notifications, but this reportedly only will be possible for a short period.

WhatsApp claims messages between individuals are end-to-end encrypted, so only their recipients can see their contents. However, under the new policy, messages sent to businesses could be stored on Facebook's servers and used for advertising purposes. 

Pankaj Srivastava, CEO and founder of management and marketing consultancy PracticalSpeak, said in an email interview that the new policy lets Facebook create digital personas that businesses can target for a price.

"Whatever WhatsApp claims now is its intention, it is their ability to marry this new bit of data to an already hefty dossier of Facebook users that Facebook compiles, which is the real threat to privacy," he said. 

The profiles created with the new privacy rules will leave "more users vulnerable to all types of data brokers, invasion of privacy, and algorithms dictating our choices," Srivastava said. 

Earth Ceramics account as it appears on WhatsApp on an Android phone
WhatsApp

Not everyone agrees that users will be significantly affected by the new policy, however. Aimee O’Driscoll, a security researcher at technology website Comparitech, said in an email interview that the average user probably doesn’t have much to worry about.

"The new policy could be more of a detriment to businesses than individuals, as it could dissuade customers from communicating via the app, forcing business owners to find alternative means of connecting," she said.

Alternatives Abound

For users who want an alternative to WhatsApp, O’Driscoll recommended Signal Private Messenger because of its privacy features. "WhatsApp uses Signal’s protocol for end-to-end encryption, but Signal packs additional security features," she said.

Signal is limited in terms of features and functionality compared to WhatsApp, Srivastava said. It also has more limitations on the size of files users can share, as well as the length of messages.

"The best alternative is to switch to a messenger like Signal, which does not collect user data and share it with Facebook or other third-party advertisers."

Messaging app Telegram is another reliable option, O’Driscoll suggested, explaining it’s "not as secure as Signal, as it doesn’t use end-to-end encryption by default, but it’s a more user-friendly alternative." 

Telegram offers many more features than WhatsApp, too. You can edit sent messages and schedule messages, and take advantage of 200,000-member chat groups, compared to WhatsApp’s 256-member chat limit.

But the best messaging alternative will depend on how you intend to use it, Caleb Chen, editor of Privacy News Online at cybersecurity firm Private Internet Access, said in an email interview. 

"Just make sure that you read through the "new" privacy policy from the replacement app and make sure you're comfortable with it," he said.

WhatsApp seems committed to implementing its new policy, but Srivastava said he hopes the company will reconsider its privacy changes.

"If companies like WhatsApp/Facebook hope to leave a long-lasting legacy, they need to appeal to the customers of tomorrow," he said. "Which means they need to reevaluate what makes them a better business, not just a bigger business."

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