Are Indians worried about privacy? Not really, shows data on WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram usage

Are Indians worried about privacy? Not really, shows data on WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram usage

A comparison of app usage between WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram in the first two weeks of January shows us how India reacted to WhatsApp privacy controversy. 

Graphic by Soham Sen | ThePrint

Graphic by Soham Sen | ThePrint

New Delhi: There may be a lot of buzz about people wanting to migrate from WhatsApp amid user data security concerns, but that seems to have barely made a dent in the Facebook-owned messaging service’s user activity.

Latest data has shown that Indian users haven’t yet completely given up on the platform despite several ‘safe’ options coming to limelight. In fact, rival app Signal seems to have fewer Indians using the app even though it received ‘celebrity endorsements’ from people such as Anand Mahindra, Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma, PhonePe co-founder Sameer Nigam and Cred founder Kunal Shah.

Even space tech entrepreneur Elon Musk and whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is wanted in the US on espionage charges, endorsed the app as a more secure messaging platform.

But India-focused data from Delhi-based business intelligence provider showed that Signal app has the most to worry about when it comes to shrinking user activity.

WhatsApp triggered a controversy in the first week of January when it notified users it was updating its terms of use on 8 February. The update, which mentions sharing data with parent company Facebook, was to be mandatory, meaning that not accepting the terms would block users from the app.

Following the furore, the chat app said it was delaying the implementation of the update to 15 May to give users more time to understand the policy. WhatsApp has maintained that it can’t read or listen to messages exchanged on the platform since it uses end-to-end encryption.

WhatsApp has an estimated 400 million users in India. The user figures for Telegram and Signal, though, are unavailable.

However, Signal’s chief operating officer had told ThePrint that India is currently leading its growth trajectory given the WhatsApp controversy.

Also read: In WhatsApp versus the world battle, Facebook unfazed by users moving to Signal, Telegram

Study specs

Data from KalaGato looked at a 13-day period — 1 to 13 January — for three messaging apps that tout privacy as a major feature: WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram.

For convenience, the data from each day was averaged out and compared with two time periods: 1 to 7 January, and 8 to 13 January, the latest day for when data is available.

The news about WhatsApp broke on 4 January, but really gained traction around 7 January.

For the study, KalaGato used a sample of 5.5 million smartphones in India.

The study measured how much the three apps were used against the following metrics — daily active users (DAU), total session time, and open rate of the app.

DAU is the percentage of sample users that opened a particular app at least once a day.

Total session time is how much time each user spent on an app in a 24-hour period.

Open rate is how many times an app was opened in a 24-hour period.

Graphic by Soham Sen | ThePrint


Also read: WhatsApp suffering ‘Facebook moment’. After capture by uncle-aunties, time for trendier apps

Signal sees growth in user base

The California-based Signal saw its DAU base and reach increase more than what WhatsApp and Telegram saw.

In the first period between 1 and 7 January, Signal’s daily active user base was 18.63 per cent. This increased to 40.66 per cent between 8 and 13 January.

This meant Signal’s DAU registered a 218 per cent increase from the first week to the second when chatter about WhatApp started picking up.

However, when it came to total session time and open rate, Signal saw poor numbers.

Session time averaged at 20.31 minutes from 1 to 7 January, reducing to 7.6 minutes between 8 and 13 January.

Similarly, Signal’s open rate was at an average of 18.72 times a day. By the next week, this fell to just 8.31 times a day.

Also read: India leading Signal growth amid WhatsApp exodus, always been ahead of tech curve, says COO

WhatsApp sees sharp dip day before full-page ads

WhatsApp predictably took a hit in its metrics, though the difference in volume could be welcome news to the company.

Daily active users were recorded at 80.99 per cent between 1 and 7 January. In the week that the issue snowballed, DAU only marginally reduced to 74.61 per cent.

Time spent on WhatsApp also only marginally reduced. While it was 47.28 minutes per day in the first week, it barely dipped to 45.77 minutes in the second week.

Additionally, there was little difference in how often WhatsApp was opened during a 24 period. In the first week, the open rate was 36.66, imperceptibly reducing to 36.52 in the second week.

More notably, WhatsApp saw a significant dip in its DAUs on 12 January. This was the day before the company had put out full page ads in Indian newspapers to convince users that it respects their privacy.

WhatsApp had a DAU base between 81 and 85 per cent for nearly the entire period between 1 and 13 January, but saw a sharp dip on 12 January, when the number dropped to 37.28 per cent.

The figure bounced back to normal on 13 January, registering at 82.81 per cent.

Also read: Privacy policy update won’t change data sharing practices with Facebook — WhatsApp head

Telegram keeps up average 

Relatively, Telegram seemed to have a stable career during the survey period, registering a slight increase in user activity.

Daily active users fell to 32.28 per cent from 32.33 per cent between the two weeks.

The total session time increased to 13.22 minutes from 12.74 minutes, while the app’s open rate increased to 10.68 from 10.41.

Also read: How to prevent Navika Kumar from reading your private WhatsApp chats