It’s just a matter of time when regulators catch up and start scrutinizing Facebook’s messaging service for the legitimacy of forcing such policies on its end users while having such a high user base. Usage of social messaging saw a surge in 2020 when people were forced to work from home due to the pandemic.
WhatsApp vs Telegram
Number of Group Users
Telegram initially became a popular alternative to WhatsApp because could virtually be an unlimited number of Telegram users in a group chat (currently at 200,000 users). Whatsapp has a limitation of 256 users per group, and this is their business model.
To take stock of what Facebook communicated that it would be collecting via Whatsapp and sharing with the Facebook app & its partners, here’s a head to head comparison of the app permissions are needed to run the two apps on your mobile:
WhatsApp: Device ID, User ID, Coarse Location, Phone Number, Email Address, Contacts, Phone logs, Product Interaction, Advertising Data, Purchase History, Payment Info, Customer Support, Crash Data, Performance Data, Diagnostic Data, Other User Content
Telegram: Contact Info, Contacts, User ID
Telegram (as per their policy) does not share data with other apps or third-party partners.
There are some differences in the security offerings of Whatsapp & Telegram. Whatsapp offers end to end encryption of the chat messages while Telegram’s encryption is limited to encryption on the end user’s phone & servers (not encrypted during internet transmission). Whatsapp uses third party cloud backups which are not encrypted, while Telegram has in-built cloud storage. Both offer self-destructing messages as an option.
Telegram does not have a Payments platform.
Telegram is relatively newer and includes most of WhatsApp’s functionalities, including sending text messages, videos, pictures, voice clips, audio, and files. WhatsApp’s layout and usability are better – here, it’s cleaner navigation to your chats, calls, status, and contacts. You can play with the fonts like italicize, bold, and strikethrough text in WhatsApp. This feature makes the user experience richer (than plain text).
One area in which Telegram stands out is making it easy to deactivate or delete your account & data if you decide to leave it and secret chat. It may not be the same as WhatsApp.
It further clarifies that when someone uses other Facebook Company products or third-party services, their terms and policies govern the use of those services or products. Given that WhatsApp has integration with features like Rooms on Facebook, this clarification was welcome for users to be aware.
WhatsApp has also explained where data resides, phone hardware & system software information collected, what happens when you delete the app, location-related information processing, etc. See more details in Terms of Service.
Finally what’s the verdict on the debate of which one should I go for?
Telegram is the one to go for if being anonymous is critical to you or your data privacy matters, AND most of your peers think the same. But WhatsApp tends to have more features, tighter integration to other Facebook products, and has a substantially large user base. Telegram is slowly catching up with 500 million monthly active users. End of the day, it’s a battle of balancing the need for privacy with usability at the current juncture.
In early Jan 2021, Elon Musk, the founder & CEO of SpaceX / Tesla, with 42 million Twitter followers, tweeted “Use Signal” and this triggered a new alternative for WhatsApp users to consider. To choose between Singal and Telegram, that’s a discussion for another time!
What’s your preference in this whole discussion of messaging platforms?