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How much of your Private Data is on Messaging App? Signal, WhatsApp and More

Private Data is on Messaging App: It’s about time you know how much data your favorite Messaging App is collecting from you. And also the level of permission they need to function.

iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 from Apple have included new transparency policies for app developers and publishers to follow. And it’s likely that the incoming Android 12 will also have this policy.

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All these new privacy policies is geared at helping average users understand the amount of private data their favorite apps are collecting from them. Which will in turn affects the app permissions.

In addition, developers are now required to first ask users for permission to serve them targeted ads, which the users can choose to deny.

Facebook have shown its disdain for this new policy. They claim that this new policy will hurt small businesses as they’ll no longer be able to show “personalized” ads to most users.

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There was also a controversy as to how Facebook planned to use your data with its WhatsApp new privacy policy some months back.

To help you know how much of your data your favorite app is collecting, we made a list of popular apps, how much of your data they collect, and the access they have to your phone.

How much of your data are your favorite messaging apps collecting?

If privacy is top priority for you – it should be for all of us, it might interest you to know how much private data some of the world’s most popular messaging apps collect from you, your family, and link to your identities.

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So let’s take a look at the most popular messaging apps in the App Store and Google Play Store and see which ones respect your privacy and to what extent. We’ll be starting with the app that collects the least amount of your private data and least access permission – Signal.

What we’ll use to determine these apps’ privacy and permissions is App permissions under “App info” section in the Google Play Store and Apple’s new “App Privacy” section in the App Store.

List of messaging apps ordered by privacy

  • Signal
  • Zoom
  • Skype
  • Telegram
  • Discord
  • WhatsApp
  • Facebook Messenger
  • TikTok

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Signal

If you wish to step out of the world of targeted ads, Signal is the app you want to use.

Truth is, there are really no technical downsides to using Signal. Just like Facebook messenger, it supports text messaging, sharing of photos, links, video calls, and reordered audio messages. It actually also gives you more privacy.

For an app that’s entirely funded by donations and grants, as opposed to collecting and selling your private data, this is all very impressive. Signal only wants your phone number to function, as shown in its App Store “App Privacy” section.

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As shown in its App store “App Privacy” section, Signal needs just your phone number to function. While in Google Play store for Android, it requires access to, Calendar, Camera, location and phone number.

None of these permissions are turned on by default. And you can also disable access to these permissions from settings if you like.

Signal’s “App Privacy and App Permission” information as it appears in the App Store and Google Play Store:

Private Data on Messaging App
Source: PhoneArena
Signal App Permission

Zoom


Zoom is created mainly for video conferencing, but thanks to the pandemic, it’s now a super popular app and it also supports messaging which is why it fits this list.

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Unlike Facebook Messenger, Zoom only collect the necessary data it needs to function.

Things it collects about you and links to your identity that you might not know about include your precise location, device ID and phone number.

Zoom’s “App Privacy and App Permission” information as it appears in the App Store and Google Play Store:

Zoom Privacy
Zoom App Permission

Skype


About Ten years ago, Skype was purchased by Microsoft and they still owns it. Given that the App has been around for some time, the history of Skype is quite interesting.

When it comes to updates and choosing not to share data with Microsoft, well there is really no easy options from Microsoft users.

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But, it seems Microsoft is letting Skype users have it the easy way. Compared to most messaging apps today, Skype only require need small data from you to get started.

With just access to some pretty basic stuff, which by the way you can disable from settings, you are good to go.

Skype’s “App Privacy and App Permission” information as it appears in the App Store and Google Play Store:

Skype Privacy
Source: PhoneArena
Skype App Permission

Telegram

Listing of top Social Networking apps won’t be complete without Telegram. It also offers messaging features just like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger – Just maybe a little more secure.

Data it collects from you and links to you includes most notably financial information and precise location, but overall the app seems fairly reasonable in its data collection.

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One of the notable permission it needs to function is access to your call logs. The app can also read your phone status and identity.

Telegram’s “App Privacy and App Permission” information as it appears in the App Store and Google Play Store:

Telegram Privacy
Telegram App Permission

Discord

Discord is a community app that is a gamer focused chat app. So, aside from direct messaging, it offers group conversations, video calls, and voice chats.

It doesn’t collect a whole heap of private data, but what seems reasonable in order for the app to function properly.

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It most notably collects and links to your identity things like your email address, search history, device ID and purchase history. While it requires access to just your camera, microphone, contact, and storage to function.

Discord’s “App Privacy and App Permission” information as it appears in the App Store and Google Play Store:

Discord Privacy
Source: PhoneArena
Discord App Permission

WhatsApp Messenger

It appears that WhatsApp doesn’t collect too much data than it needs to function. The things it collects from you and link to your identity includes; your contacts, financial info, and location.

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WhatsApp also needs permission access to use your camera, Microphone, read your call logs, your SMS, your contacts etc.

Although Signal collects less data but this is better than the ones Facebook Messenger collects.

WhatsApp’s “App Privacy and App Permission” information as it appears in the App Store and Google Play Store:

WhatsApp Privacy
WhatsApp App Permission

Facebook Messenger

Facebook Messenger collects tons of data that is also linked to your identity. These includes things like, your phone number, your precise location, the device ID, purchase history, precise location and so much more.

In its app permission, you have to give it access to your contacts, telephone, SMS, and location. Most of these information collected from you are presumed to be use by advertisers.

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But, if you don’t want to give out these much information about yourself, then you might want to consider switching to a new messenger app.

Facebook’s “App Privacy and App Permission” information as it appears in the App Store and Google Play Store:

Private Data on Messaging App
Source: PhoneArena
Private Data on Messaging App

TikTok

TikTok is mainly a video sharing app with messaging features in it. It is currently one of the biggest social media apps own by ByteDance, an internet technology in China.

Similarly to Facebook, TikTok collect quite a bit of personal data. It uses your contact info (device ID, email, phone number) to track you, as well as your location, browsing history, advertising data about you, financial info, physical address and a whole lot more.

The app was been banned or restricted in some countries. In fact, TikTok’s parent company settled a lawsuit over its collection of minors’ personal data.

Filed on behalf of teen TikTok users and younger, one of which as young as 8 years old, the lawsuit alleged that TikTok “infiltrates its users’ devices and extracts a broad array of private data including biometric data and content that defendants use to track and profile TikTok users for the purpose of, among other things, ad targeting and profit.”

In a following statement, TikTok said, “While we disagree with the assertions, rather than go through lengthy litigation, we’d like to focus our efforts on building a safe and joyful experience for the TikTok community.”

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However, TikTok does not need special permission before it runs on your phone. All permission granted to TikTok can also be disabled from the settings.

TikTok’s “App Privacy and App Permission” information as it appears in the App Store and Google Play Store:

TikTok Privacy
TikTok App Permission

What are your thoughts on Collection of Private Data on Messaging App and App permission?

To keep the internet free, user data collection and advertising plays a major role. So, you can’t just trash data collection by condemning the practice. But, knowing how much data each app collects is also a very good thing.

And this Apple new policy is a good step towards data transparency. We hope Android can follow suite in its upcoming Android 12 updates. Users should know just how much data they’re giving out and the level of access these apps have. It not too much to ask.

What do you think? Are you okay with your data being collected if it means that apps like Facebook, TikTok, and WhatsApp remain free? Do you wish you had more control over your data that is shared with advertisers? And are you planning to switch from your current messenger app to a different messaging app?

Collection of Private Data on Messaging App: Join the conversation and let us know in the comment section below.

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