There are many instant messaging apps. Signalhowever, is the most widespread and used among those created to protect the privacy of users. Signal’s end-to-end encryption algorithm, known as Signal Protocol, has been adopted by several messaging applications to ensure the confidentiality and security of communications. Names such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype and Microsoft Teams have chosen to embrace the solution underlying the functioning of Signal to create a secure communication channel between sender and recipient on each of the respective platforms. In another article we saw how Signal works and what makes it unique.
It is worth highlighting that although the messaging applications mentioned use the Signal protocol to manage the crittografia end-to-endits implementation may however differ in implementation details and features offered.
Signal is an instant messaging app, available on different platforms such as Android, iOS, Windows, macOS and Linux. Founded in 2013 by Moxie Marlinspike and Brian Acton (co-founder of WhatsApp), Signal has become known for being one of the most respectful messaging applications ever of users’ personal data.
The application takes a transparent and collaborative approach by making its available source code. This allows developers to examine it to ensure there are no backdoors or vulnerabilities. Signal developers are also committed to protecting the metadata communications, such as contact lists, group members, and other personal information.
Signal staff don’t know who’s messaging you and have no access to users’ personal address books or profile information.
Compared to many big names in the industry, Signal decided from the beginning to put any tool out the door monetization based on user data and observation of their interests and preferences. Furthermore, being based on a non-profit organization, Signal’s activities are not driven by financial interests and there are no shareholders to satisfy. “We don’t have profit-minded investors or board members knocking around in tough times, pushing us to “sacrifice some privacy” in the name of achieving monetary and growth goals. This is important in an industry where “free” consumer technology is almost always underpinned by the monetization of user behavior and the invasion of privacy“, notes Signal.
Signal costs $14 million per year, growing to $50 million by 2025
In a heartfelt post, entitled “privacy is priceless but Signal is expensive”, the foundation behind the development of the application tries to involve and raise awareness among users by explaining that to keep the messaging software functioning, an annual investment of about 33 million dollars. According to the estimates developed so far, costs could rise significantly, reaching at least i 50 million dollars by 2025. And that would still be significantly lower than other popular messaging apps that don’t place as much emphasis on privacy as Signal.
“Data is profitable, instead our non-profit organization focuses on collecting as little data as possible“, is reported by Signal. “Signal’s behavior is to end-to-end encrypt everything possible, storing as little as possible. All while ensuring that messages are delivered promptly and that calls are clear and free of delays. We do this by leveraging globally distributed hosting infrastructure and paying for significant amounts of bandwidth from some of the world’s leading providers“.
Bandwidth, storage, servers and telecommunications services cost a lot
Only the network bandwidth committed by Signal, costs about $2.8 million per year. Added to this amount are 2.9 million for servers and 1.3 million for it data storage.
In fact, when you send a message, it is queued, temporarily storing it on the server side in encrypted form. Since all packets are end-to-end encrypted, Signal cannot access their contents. The application removes the saved copy of the message as soon as it is delivered to the recipient or in any case after a certain period of inactivity. Even if it’s all only temporary, this data storage costs Signal about $1.3 million per year. As indicated above.
Signal observes again: “That’s a lot of money, even if it’s less than it would cost if we kept everything forever“.
To the costs mentioned above, 6 million dollars per year are added for expenses related to verification of registration of users (sending SMS and making calls), in addition to expenses for employees (salaries) and related activities which amount to a total of 19 million.
Putting privacy at the center is still possible
Signal continues with its ambitious objective: to demonstrate that creating a successful, sustainable messaging app, capable of offering a worthy economic livelihood for those who work there, is still possible.
The recipe remains unchanged: privacy must remain central, to look to a world in which companies are increasingly called upon to be responsible towards people who use and rely on their services, without always having to account to investors and without constantly searching for growth and profit.
As the developers of Thunderbird, the well-known email client, had already done in recent days, now the top management of Signal is asking for a Economic support voluntary to users, in the form of donation.