Home News Signal Advances Privacy by Testing Usernames, Reducing Phone Number Dependence

Signal Advances Privacy by Testing Usernames, Reducing Phone Number Dependence

Signal Advances Privacy by Testing Usernames, Reducing Phone Number Dependence

Signal, the acclaimed encrypted messaging service known for prioritizing user privacy, has initiated a pivotal move to enhance its privacy features by testing the integration of usernames. This significant update is aimed at reducing the reliance on phone numbers, a practice that has long been a privacy concern among its user base.

Key Highlights:

  • Signal is testing the use of usernames instead of phone numbers to bolster user privacy.
  • The testing phase involves a staging environment for comprehensive evaluation before public release.
  • Users can create unique usernames, accompanied by a set of digits, not visible on profiles.
  • The initiative is part of Signal’s ongoing efforts to enable communication without sharing phone numbers, although phone numbers are still required for registration.

Signal Advances Privacy by Testing Usernames, Reducing Phone Number Dependence

Signal’s Vice President of Engineering, Jim O’Leary, revealed that the organization is actively testing this feature within a controlled staging environment. This environment operates parallel to the stable version of Signal, necessitating users to install a new build and register anew, albeit with the option to use the same phone number​​​​.

The new feature allows users to conceal the phone numbers linked to their accounts, a change that has been eagerly anticipated by privacy advocates. By setting up a username, users can engage in more private communications, sharing unique QR codes or links instead of their phone numbers. Additionally, Signal provides the option to disable phone number discovery, enabling users to primarily use usernames as their contact identifiers​​​​.

The development of usernames by Signal addresses a critical privacy concern: the mandatory use of phone numbers for account setup. Although this update doesn’t eliminate the requirement for a phone number during registration, it substantially mitigates the exposure of personal information. Signal encourages users participating in the testing phase to explore various functionalities, including the creation and sharing of usernames, adjusting phone number sharing settings, and inviting others to groups using the new identifiers​​​​.

This testing phase represents a crucial step in Signal’s commitment to enhancing user privacy. The introduction of usernames is accompanied by additional new features and improvements within the Signal app, further solidifying its position as a leader in secure messaging. These updates include the ability to delete contacts, edit messages, and apply text formatting, among others​​.

The decision to test and eventually implement usernames stems from ongoing feedback from the Signal community and privacy advocates. It reflects Signal’s dedication to providing secure and private communication channels that meet the evolving needs of its users. Meredith Whittaker, Signal’s President, previously highlighted the development of usernames as a key initiative to allow people to use Signal without disclosing their phone numbers​​.

Signal’s move to test and introduce usernames marks a significant advancement in the realm of encrypted messaging. It showcases a strong commitment to user privacy by addressing one of the most persistent criticisms of the platform. While the necessity for a phone number at registration remains, the ability to communicate without sharing this personal information is a notable leap forward. This development not only enhances the privacy features of Signal but also sets a new standard for secure communication in the digital age. Signal’s proactive approach to privacy, coupled with its transparency and willingness to innovate, underscores its role as a trusted leader in secure messaging.