So far 2021 has been a year with growth in the use of privacy-focused apps.
The milestone of Duck Duck Go
Last week the privacy-focused search engine Duck Duck Go reached a major milestone when it recorded its first-ever day with more than 100 million user search queries, according to ZDNET. The miletone was hit just 12 years after the app saw the light of day.
Signal and Telegram are Hot
But Duck Duck Go is by no means alone. The privacy focused chat apps Signal and Telegram also went through a rapid growth in the user base in the first weeks of 2021.“Millions Flock to Telegram and Signal as Fears Grow Over Big Tech. The encrypted messaging services have become the world’s hottest apps over the last week, driven by growing anxiety over the power of the biggest tech companies and privacy concerns” wrote The New York Times.
Whats up, Whats App?
The “growing anxiety” and “privacy concerns” relates to a recent news story about WhatsApp wanting to force users to agree to share information with Facebook in order to keep using the service. WhatsApp warned users in a pop-up notice that they “need to accept these updates to continue using WhatsApp” – or delete their accounts wrote BBC. But one week later BBC reported that “WhatsApp says that this practice is not new, and there are no changes to it”
Remember Facebook promised never to mix data of WhatsApp and Facebook in order to get green light from the EU commission, when wanting to buy WhatsApp back in 2014. This lie did cost Facebook a huge fine in 2017. Now it might cost them users.
WhatsApp’s confusing communication is not the only reason that apps like Telegram and Signal all of a sudden have become so popular. On Jan. 7, Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk tweeted, “Use Signal.” And according to The Wall Street Journal this caused the app’s phone-number verification system to break temporarily because so many did just that. A couple of days later Twitter Inc. CEO Jack Dorsey “published a screenshot of Signal at the top of the App Store charts, along with a heart emoji. Moreover influential accounts on Parler, called on followers to move to Telegram.
At DataEthics.eu we also recommend Signal. But also Wire.com is a really good choice.
Raised Concern as a Byproduct
So, these days Big Tech is faced with a much needed civil showdown with the surveillance capitalistic business models leaving everyone’s data up for grap to God Knows What. But the big switch to encrypted apps also causes concern, because encryption can protect everyone, including bad actors. The very apps that “protect the privacy of people’s digital communications can stymie the authorities in crime investigations because conversations are hidden”, as reported by The New York Times.
There are no easy ways. But one thing is sure: A Showdown with the business models of Big Tech is much needed. And it seems like 2021 will be a significant year in this regard.
Fact: In the first week of 2021 the app Signal was downloaded 246,000 times worldwide and in the next week it was downloaded 8.8 million according to SensorTower.