WhatsApp users have begun trickling to more privacy-centric messaging apps Signal and Telegram after becoming aware of data-sharing practices between WhatsApp and parent company Facebook last week.
First this goes to show how much Facebook values their users' data over their users.— Privacy International (@privacyint) January 7, 2021
"Accept our data grab or get out" is pretty far from what consent should look like under laws like GDPR 2/9
Nevertheless, in the wake of the policy update, several high-profile social-media users announced they were deleting WhatsApp and began guiding users to alternative messaging apps Signal and Telegram. Chamath Palihapitiya, the CEO of Social Capital and chairman of Virgin Galactic, tweeted:
Starting in Feb, WhatsApp will begin sharing all kinds of data with Facebook. They just killed their best feature - privacy.— Chamath Palihapitiya (@chamath) January 10, 2021
Please no longer text me on WhatsApp. Download @signalapp
The most notable push came from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, whose account is in the top 50 most-followed Twittter handles with 41.9 million followers. The tweet, "Use Signal", was retweeted by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
Use Signal— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 7, 2021
Dorsey later shared a Tweet that showed Signal at the top of Apple's App Store chart for free apps. Signal dethroned WhatsApp as the top free app in India, Germany, France, Austria, Finland, Hong Kong, and Switzerland on Saturday (January 9).
Look at what you've done. pic.twitter.com/0YuqyZXtgP— Signal (@signalapp) January 8, 2021
Signal and Telegram have subsequently witnessed a spike in downloads. More than 100,000 users installed Signal across Apple and Google app stores last week, while Telegram was downloaded nearly 2.2 million times, according to Sensor Tower data. Meanwhile, WhatsApp installs fell by 11% in the first seven days of 2021 compared to the prior week, reaching 10.5 million downloads globally.
It appears as though Signal was not prepared for the sudden influx of new users: on Thursday (January 7) it said that verification codes used to create new accounts were delayed due to the spike in demand. "We are working with carriers to resolve this as quickly as possible. Hang in there," the service Tweeted.