Signal Rolls Out Usernames To Enhance User’s Privacy

For nearly a decade, cybersecurity professionals and privacy advocates have recommended the end-to-end encrypted communication’s app Signal as the gold standard for truly private digital communications. Using it however, has paradoxically required exposing one particular piece of private information to everyone you text or call: a phone number. Now, that’s changing, WIRED reported.

Today, Signal launched the rollout in beta of a long-awaited set of features it’s describing simply as “phone number privacy”. Those features, which WIRED has tested, are designed to allow users to communicate on the app and instead share a username as a less-sensitive method of connecting with one another.

Signal posted the following on their website:

Signal’s mission and sole focus is private communication. For years, Signal has kept your messages private, your profile information (like your name and profile photo) private, your contacts private, and your groups private — among much else. Now, we’re taking that one step further by making your phone number on Signal more private.

New default: Your phone number will no longer be visible to everyone in Signal

If you use Signal, your phone number will no longer be visible to everyone you chat with by default. People who have your number saved in their phone’s contacts will still see your phone number since they already know it.

Connect without sharing your phone number

If you don’t want to hand out your phone number to chat with someone on Signal, you can now create a unique username that you can use instead (you will still need a phone number to sign in for Signal). Note that a username is not the profile name that’s displayed in chats, it’s not a permanent handle, and not visible to the people you are chatting with in Signal. A username is simply a way to initiate contact on Signal without sharing your phone number.

Control who can find you on Signal by phone number

If you don’t want people to be able to find you by searching for your phone number on Signal, you can now enable a new, optional privacy setting. This means that unless people have your exact unique username, they won’t be able to start a conversation, or even know that you have a Signal account — even if they have your phone number.

Right now, these options are in beta, and will be rolling out to everyone in the coming weeks.

The Verge reported that if you do decide to create a username, it won’t appear on your profile details page or in your chats. Other users won’t be able to see it unless you share it. “Put another way someone will need to know your exact unique username in order to start a chat with you on Signal,” Randall Sarafa, the chief product officer at Signal, writes in a post announcing the features rollout.

In my opinion, privacy is very important for users of any social media website. Lack of privacy on any social media site can cause chaos and potential harm.