WTF is going on with WhatsApp?

And what are the alternatives if you decide to jump ship?

Did you notice a new pop-up message from WhatsApp recently? 

Chances are you just dismissed it because it was blocking your view of the group chat, but those who paid closer attention have spied some changes to its terms and conditions that they don’t like the look of.

So what’s new with the wildly popular messaging app? And what can you use instead if you leave it behind?

What did this WhatsApp pop-up say?

The pop-up, which was sent to all two billion of the app’s users, basically offered an ultimatum: agree to the new privacy policy by 8 February if you want to keep using the app. The alternative? Delete your account.

The bit that’s caused some consternation is the fact that WhatsApp wants to start sharing more of its users’ data with its parent company Facebook. That might not seem like a big deal, but FB doesn’t exactly have an unblemished record when it comes to security and privacy.

So I should probably delete the app then, right?

As usual with internet uproars it’s not quite as simple as that. For starters, the change doesn’t apply to people in the UK and Europe, and much of what you use the app for will remain secure. Neither WhatsApp or Facebook can read your messages or listen to your calls, it doesn’t keep a log of them or of your location, and it doesn’t share your contacts.

So why make the change in the first place? Apparently it’s all about shopping and payments, which is presumably something we can look forward to further down the line. Because it would be too much to ask to have just one app that wasn’t designed to make us spend more of our hard-earned, right?

What are the alternatives like?

There are two main ones that have reaped the benefits so far: Signal and Telegram. Neither are new but both are fully encrypted, allow you to set your messages to self-destruct, and have seen pretty hefty increases in downloads since WhatsApp sent out the offending message.

Telegram, which has added 25 million new users in the past few days, gives you extra control over who can see your phone number and allows groups of up to 200,000, which is probably overkill unless you’re really popular.

On the other hand, Signal is the favoured messaging app of US whistleblower Edward Snowden, which is quite the endorsement, and it was actually created by one of WhatsApp’s co-founders, who left after a dispute over privacy. Can anybody smell irony?

Or you could always give Honk a go. All of them are free to download and use, but habits are hard to break and if the people you want to message all stick with WhatsApp there’s not much point being the only one to switch. You know what they say about people who talk to themselves...