Longtime readers of my blog know that Signal is one of my favorite messaging applications for secure and private communications. To this point the emphasis has been more on the security than the privacy or anonymity; however, with a new feature the balance pivots more toward an equilibrium of security and privacy.
Read on to learn about the new feature and why it is important for your privacy.
Signal – A Beacon of Secure and Private Messaging
Signal is an open source messaging application that has emerged as a leader in secure and private digital communications. For many years, it has been my go-to app on my phone and computer (yes they have desktop apps for Windows/Mac/Linux).
It’s been a long favorite of mine as I’ve been using it for many years now. I started using it heavily when WhatsApp was purchased by Facebook a.k.a. Meta in 2014. I wrote about my concerns and they eventually manifested into reality.
Recently, Signal announced they are testing a feature that will let users message without having to share their phone numbers. As it stands, you need a phone number to sign up and use the service. Although you can get a burner (hard or soft) number, this new feature allows for a more simple practice.
What is the New Feature?
Signal is developing a username feature that will allow you to access and use the service without having to provide your phone number to people you chat with. Your phone number can be set to private if you do not want to share it.
The ETA for rolling out is supposed to be early 2024. It’s been in the works for years now as the technical hurdle to make this happen is significant (I’ll take their word for it).
The Power of Signal Usernames
“What’s the big deal?” you may ask. “How does this enhance my private communications?” and “Why should I care?”. Glad you asked…
What’s the Big Deal about Signal Usernames?
The salient point is you will be able to communicate on Signal without exposing personally identifiable indicators e.g. your phone number. Sometimes the content of the message must be presented; however, the identify of the source needs to be kept hidden.
Competing messaging applications cannot easily compete here because they rely on user identification. For example, Meta (fka Facebook) relies on people using their true identity for marketing, data harvesting, product usage tracking, etc. Since WhatsApp is under the Meta umbrella they are subject to this as well.
NOTE: a phone number is still required to create a Signal account. The benefit to usernames is allowing you to hide your phone number and real contact info
How Do Signal Usernames Enhance Private Communications?
Usernames aren’t just for show. They are an extra layer to your communications. Phone numbers can be easily tracked; however, aliases such as usernames make that more difficult to prove the identity of the communicators.
Why Should I Care About Signal Usernames?
We all have times where we want to speak to someone in confidence without others being privy to the details. Additionally, there are times when something needs to be said but attributing it to your name is detrimental. There can be many reasons for this: doxxing, blackmail, and censorship are a few.
The ability to have anonymous communications is paramount not only to your digital communications but also for your mental health.
Seemingly every time a new security feature is developed that masks the identity in any degree, there is pushback from those who want to read your communications. Whether this is a government, a stalker, a business looking to monetize / advertise better, or a curious evesdropper.
Signal’s commitment to advancing secure and private digital communications takes a giant leap forward with the upcoming username feature. This innovative addition allows users to communicate without exposing personally identifiable indicators, offering a crucial layer of privacy. By enabling anonymous communications and providing a shield against tracking through phone numbers, Signal Usernames emerge as a powerful tool in the ongoing battle for digital privacy.
Stay tuned as we anticipate the early 2024 rollout!
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