Signal is a free private messaging platform that promises security and privacy to users through end-to-end encryption. The emphasis on every conversation’s security has Signal quickly rising in popularity, but it may also have many parents asking, “How safe is Signal?”
With Signal, users can message people one-on-one, create group chats, and make free voice and video calls. With the app’s end-to-end encryption, only those involved with the conversation are able to view and access messages.
Users create an encrypted “Signal Profile” — a name and picture that they set up within the app. First names are required, but people can use a nickname, single character, or an emoji as their identifier.
“Message Requests” give users the option to block, delete, or accept messages from somebody trying to get in touch with them. Users can see the name and photo of the person trying to message them in individual conversations. For group conversations, users can identify who is in the chat prior to joining, giving them better control over who they are talking to.
Signal’s Recent Rise in Popularity
The protests surrounding George Floyd‘s murder last year year started Signal’s sudden rise. Because it’s easier to keep group communications private on Signal — unlike Facebook, Instagram or TikTok which can be monitored by law enforcement — many sought out Signal as a way to safely and securely organize protests.
Signal addressed the heightened use during this time in a blog post. They wrote, “Many of the people and groups who are organizing for that change are using Signal to communicate, and we’re working hard to keep up with the increased traffic. We’ve also been working to figure out additional ways we can support everyone in the street right now.”
The app also announced a new feature that made it easy to blur faces in photos, and an initiative to distribute face coverings to those protesting on the streets.
However, that same security and privacy many activists seek out in Signal may become a cause of concern for parents of teens using the app.
Is Signal Safe?
As mentioned, Signal is equipped with features to keep conversations as private as possible. Each one-on-one chat has a unique “safety number” that allows users to verify the security of their messages and calls with specific contacts.
For parents, it’s not hard to guess why this may be an issue. If a teen is using Signal to hide the content of their conversations, they will likely be successful.
The app also has a disappearing message feature, similar to Snapchat’s chat feature. Once enabled, a user’s messages will come with a timer and once the timer goes off, the message is deleted from the conversation. As with Snapchat, that doesn’t stop a person from taking a screenshot — so sending adult messages or images can still come back to haunt someone — but it’s still good for hiding communications.
Signal requires that users must be at least 13 years of age, but there is no real age verification on the app. As long as a child has access to a phone number, they can register a profile on Signal.
Signal is currently available in the iOS App Store, Google Play, and on Chrome.