Globally, text messaging has been in decline for the past few years. Research by COMREG reveals that the global usage of SMS has dropped by 44% from 3 billion to 1.7 billion. More and more consumers are switching to messaging platforms rather than traditional SMS messaging.
According to data from Statista, the most popular messaging in Singapore is Whatsapp, with 46% of Singaporeans using it. Yet, Whatsapp recently altered their Terms and Conditions, raising concerns about user control over personal data and information.
Frankly, no one has the time to read through long chunks of legal text. That’s why we have decided to comb through the privacy policies of 4 popular messaging applications: Whatsapp, WeChat, Telegram and Line. Here’s a summary of what we found:
|Basic Information about the Application||Developer: Naver Corporation
Country of Origin: Japan
Released in: March 2011
Users: 220 million monthly active users
|Developer: Telegram Messenger LLP
Country of Origin: Russia
Released in: August 2013
Users: 100 million monthly active users
|Developer: Tencent Holdings Limited
Country of Origin: China
Country of Origin: United States
Released in: January 2010
Users: 1 billion monthly active users
|End to End Encryption||Yes- all chats||Yes – only Secret Chats||No||Yes-all chats|
|Type of Information Collected||
|Compliance with Industry Standards||LINE received ISO/IEC 27001 certification in 2007, and SOC2, SOC3 (SysTrust) certifications for the LINE App service.||N.A||N.A||N.A|
|Third Party||“To facilitate and provide you with the Service, it sometimes is necessary for LINE to request third party partner service providers or agents to help us process and/or store your personal information.”||“We never share your data with anyone. No.”||“We and our affiliate companies may share your Personal Information within our group of companies and with joint venture partners and third party service providers, contractors and agents (such as communication service providers who send emails or push notifications on our behalf, and mapping services providers who assist us and you with location data)….”||“We will share some of your account information with Facebook and the Facebook family of companies, like the phone number you verified when you registered with WhatsApp, as well as the last time you used our service.”|
Only WeChat does not offer End-to-End Encryption services
End-to-end encryption is a form of communication where only the parties to the conversation can access the messages. Messaging applications with end-to-end encryption prevent third parties from accessing the conversation. This means that the messaging company, telecom providers or even the government will not be able to access the conversation you have with another person.
Out of the 4 messaging applications surveyed, only WeChat did not have end-to-end encryption. Whatsapp and Line have end-to-end encryption for all their chats while Telegram only has end-to-end encryption for Secret Chats.
WeChat collects the most types of information while Telegram collects the least
Common to all the messaging platforms is the collection of personal information (name, handphone number/email address) for the creation and registration of an account.
LINE has received certification for compliance with Industry Standard while the other platforms have not
Out of the 4 applications, only LINE has implanted industry-standard safeguards to prevent unauthorized access or disclosure of personal information. In 2007, they received ISO/IEC 270001 certification as well as SyTrust certifications. This means that the company has taken efforts to examine information security risks (e.g. data security) and has also implemented a coherent and comprehensive suite of information security controls.
The privacy policies of the other 3 applications do not indicate any formal certification of industry-standard safeguards.
Telegram discloses the least amount of personal information to Third Parties
All of the messaging platforms explain that their collection of personal data will be used to improve and optimize the Messaging service. However, the firms have different approaches with regards to how personal information is shared with third parties.
WeChat and Whatsapp have a similar policy. They note that by accepting their conditions, users allow them to share their personal data with their affiliate companies. For example, WeChat collaborates with IngDan Ltd while Whatsapp is owned by Facebook. Hence, your personal information (name and number) might be shared with these firms if it is necessary for their joint ventures.
On the other hand, LINE notes that it will share personal information to third party partner service providers that the work with. For example, if they are required to collaborate with a server company in order to optimize their platform, they will disclose your personal information if necessary.
In other words, Telegram promises not to disclose your personal information to any third party.
So which application should I use?
Given the variety of messaging platforms, users are indeed spoilt for choice. In choosing which platform to use, users should take note of the following considerations:
|If you…||Then choose this application…||Why?|
|Do not want third parties to be able to access your messages||LINE or Whatsapp||All messages are protected by end-to-end encryption|
|Want an application that collects the least amount of personal information||Telegram||It collects the least amount of personal information. Only those needed for registration and creation of your account|
|Want an application that has received formal industry certification for information security||LINE||LINE has received ISO/IEC 270001 certification and SyTrust certification for information security management|
|Do not want your info shared or sold to 3rd parties||Telegram||It doesn’t disclose your personal information to third parties|
If you have any other privacy concerns and feel that your personal information might have been misused, you can consult a lawyer for 15 minutes at a transparent fee of $49. Schedule your Quick Consult here.
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.