What is Signal? How the encrypted messaging app is helping protests worldwide

Signal is helping people around the world communicate privately (Getty Images)

Signal is an encrypted messaging app much like WhatsApp that has seen a surge of interest in recent days following protests over the killing of George Floyd.

The app has actually been around since 2015, but has always been overshadowed by the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

It’s available on both Android and iOS phones as well as desktop and comes recommended by privacy and security activists (such as Edward Snowden) because of the level of security it offers.

Signal lets you send texts, make calls, transfer files and documents and share your location all under end-to-end encryption. Meaning nobody, not even Signal itself, can record what’s being said.

Unlike Facebook Messenger, for example, Signal doesn’t collect any information about its users that could be used for advertising. It also doesn’t allow governments or law enforcement access to your messages.

How does Signal work?

Signal is a free, encrypted messaging app for iOS, Android and desktop (Signal)

Signal is free, but you need to verify your phone number in order to use it. Similar to WhatsApp, users need to input a code sent to their phones to activate their account.

Once it’s activated, the account requires a 4-digit PIN code to make it even more secure.

The app has a number of unique features geared around security that show why it’s become so popular with protesters around the world.

It’s possible to set individual conversations to delete themselves over time.

Protests in Washington DC over the death of George Floyd (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

This week, in response to the protests, Signal announced it was launching a new tool that blurs faces during a video call.

The in-app AI applies the blur automatically to any faces it detects with the entire process happening on the phone rather than company servers.

‘We believe that something in America needs to change, and even if we don’t know exactly how, we support and trust in the people who are self-organizing around the country to figure it out,’ wrote Signal’s co-founder Moxie Marlinspike.

Signal is now letting users blur their faces (Signal)

‘One immediate thing seems clear: 2020 is a pretty good year to cover your face.’



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