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Signal a non-profit company unlike Facebook's WhatsApp; India prime focus: Brian Acton

Talking about WhatsApp's new privacy policy, Brian Acton remarked Signal "being a non-profit company" will never "sell user data ever." Acton also assured that the company's commitment to privacy is never going to change

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | January 19, 2021 | Updated 11:35 IST
Signal a non-profit company unlike Facebook's WhatsApp; India prime focus: Brian Acton
California-based messaging app Signal's co-founder Brian Acton hailed India for being at the forefront in adopting new technology

California-based messaging app Signal's co-founder Brian Acton lauded Indian users' strong stand in favour of data privacy saying that India has been a "focus" for the company for many years.

The app, backed by the non-profit Signal Foundation, is being pitched against WhatsApp as one of the top alternatives to the latter following uproar over its privacy policy update, which has sparked fears over user data and privacy.

India prime focus for Signal

Hailing India for being at the forefront in adopting new technology, Acton stated that Signal is "including new Indian languages" in addition to 10 existing ones.

"We also believe in localisation and are calibrated for 10 Indian languages so far, namely Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. We are working on many more," he told India Today Tech.

Also Read: WhatsApp's new privacy policy "very confusing", says Signal co-founder Brian Acton

Signal, which has become a buzzword over the last few days, has topped the charts on iOS App store in more than 70 countries and the Android App Store in over 50 nations, Acton said, adding that the "burgeoning support from all corners of India" has been encouraging for the company.

"India is a country that has always been ahead of the curve at adopting the best technology, and it's exciting to see it happening again. To see India, make such a strong stand, in favour of data-privacy and a new more privacy-oriented messenger, speaks volumes. We are now continuing to scale infrastructure and are all hands on deck, so as to handle this incredible growth," he noted.

"India is such a large aspect of the internet, and what India wants is what the internet wants. This growth proves that what India wants is digital privacy," Acton stated.

Also Read: BT Buzz: Why WhatsApp's clarification on privacy policy is misleading

WhatsApp privacy policy row

Talking about WhatsApp's new privacy policy, Acton remarked that Signal being a non-profit company doesn't "collect any user data". Acton also assured that the company's commitment to privacy is steadfast.

"When a company is for profit, their motivations strive towards gaining more profit. Signal is an independent nonprofit, and our motivation is different, our mission is to provide the best tools for communicating privately with your friends, family and colleagues. We follow a revenue model of donations and contributions which fuel the cause of data privacy, and we aim to continue the same. No ads. No trackers," he said adding that ultimate goal is to "make the Signal Foundation financially self-sustaining."

WhatsApp, which for the last decade hasn't been challenged by any other messaging application, finally has Signal and other platforms as potential threats. Speaking about the competition between the two, Acton stated that the app has been "carving a niche of its own" since users feel it's a "safe app to be on."

"The kind of transition we have seen in such a short time span is testament to that - and we are committed to keep working harder, to keep the momentum going, and to keep protecting everyone on Signal," he said.

Also Read: Signal climbs to top of free apps category on App Store after WhatsApp row

Signal's operations, features, security

Elaborating on the app's operations, Acton noted that the company is delivering billions of messages every day and is scaling up gradually by ramping up infrastructure to handle user load better along with new features it is working on.

"Our key differentiator, when compared to other messenger apps, is that we want you to own your own data. There are no ads, no trackers, and no analytics," he stated adding that Signal uses "state of the art end-to-end encryption" so that it cannot read users' messages, see their photos, listen to their phone calls, know who they are talking to or even see their profile photo.

In case an exchange is intercepted, by a hacker or any government agency, the interceptor, Acton said, sees a "nonsensical snarl of letters and numbers."

He added that Signal will concentrate on providing features that are needed by users rather than borrowing them from WhatsApp or any other platform. Acton further stated that the company will soon launch more India-specific wallpapers, which have been the most requested feature by the users.

Also Read: Signal app faces global outage days after adding millions of users

Talking about other features Signal is working on, he added that users can also witness "some uncommon features, such as messages that disappear after a set period of time, reacting to messages with any emoji, and the note to self feature."

Acton, who co-founded WhatsApp in 2009 with Jan Koum, had quit the company following disagreement over how Facebook should monetise WhatsApp.

He subsequently co-founded Signal in 2014 with Moxie Marlinspike. Signal is a cross-platform end-to-end encrypted messaging service that allows users to have one-on-one conversations and group chats.

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