Signal Messenger Experiences Flood of Popularity During Protests

Signal Messenger Experiences Flood of Popularity During Protests
Signal Messenger Experiences Flood of Popularity During Protests

The encrypted messaging app Signal is experiencing a huge wave of popularity right now due to the police brutality protests taking place across the world, according to

Police brutality protests in NYC

On Wednesday of this week, Signal implemented new features to help protesters preserve their anonymity. Even from its inception, Signal has been an end-to-end encrypted messaging app whose selling point is privacy and anonymity. Now, with the protests taking place worldwide, apps such as Signal are taking on an ever more important role.

App analytics firm App Annie confirmed that Signal became the eighth most downloaded app by iPhone users in the US this week. Signal allows users to send texts, images, and videos using said end-to-end encryption which makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for law enforcement to spy on their communications. In addition, it has a "disappearing messages" feature, which automatically deletes messages after a specified amount of time.

The new features include a "blur" feature, which makes it simple to blur faces in photos, particularly at events like the protests. The blur feature also has an option to automatically blur faces, which you can turn on and off by swiping. For example, the image below is from the Miles Davis album 'Round Bout Midnight, using the blur feature. 

You can also draw on the photo in order to blur any section of it, besides just faces. Prior to the blurring feature, the developers of Signal also added a PIN option, in which the user needs to enter a PIN periodically in order to access their messages.

At a time when law enforcement agencies are being especially harsh in targeting ordinary citizens, apps like Signal and their corresponding privacy options are especially important. In addition to Signal, other apps like the Tor Browser (which is available for mobile devices as well) are just as essential. The Android version of Tor, like its desktop counterpart, disguises the IP address of the user, and therefore their location. Similar apps like Onion Browser are available for iOS devices.

With mobile devices, other apps can still leak metadata and possibly compromise anonymity, so the proxy app Orbot can add to the Tor Browser's privacy features. By routing traffic from other apps through Tor, there's a smaller likelihood that your identity will be endangered. Apps such as these will likely continue to increase in popularity as such events take place around the world.