As WhatsApp users lose faith, Israel-founded Viber sees a boost

Viber’s CEO, Djamel Agaoua, has not shied away from slamming WhatsApp’s update.

 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Now that people are hurrying to remove WhatsApp from their phones after changes in the app’s privacy policy, millions have already moved to messaging apps like Signal, Telegram, and the Israel-founded app Rakuten Viber.
Viber told The Jerusalem Post it saw growth of up to 29% in some regions in the period between January 6 and 11 compared with the previous week, before WhatsApp’s announcement that it would share user data with Facebook. In stark contrast with WhatsApp, Viber was among the companies that spearheaded last year’s #StopHateForProfit boycott against Facebook for its inability to combat hate speech, cutting all ties with the social media giant. The app pulled all advertising from Facebook and its sister app Instagram, while also removing all Facebook technology from its platform.
So what is the new WhatsApp policy, anyway, and why are people concerned about it? According to the new policy, WhatsApp sends the information it gathers from users, which doesn’t include the content they share on the app, to Facebook. Users don’t have any option of changing these settings. Mark Zuckerberg’s social media behemoth has come under fire for its own missteps on data privacy in the past. Back in July 2019, Facebook paid $5 billion to settle these concerns after it enabled Cambridge Analytica to harvest the data of 87 million Facebook users.
After outrage over its announced update ensued, WhatsApp has decided to delay rollout of its new policy until May 15. In a recent blog post, the messaging app emphasized the app still uses end-to-end encryption and therefore offers top-notch security.
WhatsApp affirmed in the blog post that privacy is still a major concern for the company. “The update includes new options people will have to message a business on WhatsApp, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.”
Viber, on the other hand, doesn’t send any user data to other applications or organizations. The company’s default setting is end-to-end encryption, as is the setting to not automatically store user data on the cloud. The app also offers top-notch screen privacy, allowing users to send self-destructing messages within a chat and hide entire chats to anyone who doesn’t have access to an established pin code.
Viber’s CEO, Djamel Agaoua, has not shied away from slamming WhatsApp’s update.
“It’s truly an outrageous update that makes a mockery of the term ‘privacy policy,’” he said of the policy. “It’s been clear for some time now that WhatsApp doesn’t value the privacy of its users, but this development really seems like a new record in the company’s disrespect for people using its app.”
As users move to Telegram and Signal, as well as Viber, for their emphasis on data privacy, some concerns have risen about other aspects of their networks.
Since Twitter and Facebook banned former US president Donald Trump, many alt-right activists have taken to Telegram to voice their support for the spread of violence throughout the US.
With over 200 million monthly active users, and enhanced security capabilities, the app is also used by cyber criminals as a go-to market channel for illegal activities. In Israel alone, Telegrass – a Telegram channel – deals with the distribution of marijuana illegally throughout the country.
A recent surge in Signal downloads caused the servers to crash, leaving millions without access to their messages for more than 24 hours. Signal also has end-to-end encryption messaging and is owned and operated by a nonprofit organization. No one can have access to these messages – not even Signal itself. The only potential privacy downside to the app is on its IOS version, on which users must manually turn off the “Show Calls in Recents” to stop their history from synching to the cloud.