Worried Internet Users Flock to Encryption App After Donald Trump Election

Janko Roettgers
Variety

The election of Donald Trump has some internet users worried about their privacy and safety, resulting in a significant uptick in demand for the encrypted messaging app Signal, according to new data from app measurement specialist App Annie. Interest was already elevated in recent months, thanks to countless reports about hacked emails.

Signal is an app that allows mobile phone users to securely exchange encrypted messages without keeping any copies of those messages on a central server. The app has been developed as a non-profit effort by a number of privacy activists, and has in the past been promoted by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Signal got a significant boost in attention after hackers attacked the DNC, and broke into the email account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Campaign staffers reportedly switched to using Signal to communicate safely. The app has been downloaded more than 800,000 times from the Apple App Store and Google Play over the past 2.5 months, with a quarter of the downloads originating from the U.S., according to App Annie.

That may still be small numbers compared to some of the more popular messengers. But it’s worth noting that Signal has seen a significant increase in downloads ever since election day. The app was ranked 98th within the U.S. App Store’s social networking category on Election Day, according to App Annie.  The day after the election, it was ranked 45th; on Thursday, it reached spot number 34.

Android users are also increasingly turning to Signal. On Google Play, Signal was the 65th most popular communications app in the U.S. on Election Day. On Thursday, it had become the 33th most popular communications app.

The growth in Signal app downloads coincides with a growing interest in other privacy and security apps. “We’re seeing in general an uptick of users being more mindful of their digital footprint and mobile security with apps like Signal and the various VPN apps that exist on the market like Hotspot Shield and Opera VPN,” said Amir Ghodrati, director of market insights at App Annie. “The one thing to keep in mind is that for users to receive the maximum benefit of Signal, their contacts have to be leveraging the app as well.”

Trump has yet to formulate a detailed tech policy for his upcoming administration, but past statements about encryption and surveillance have privacy advocates alarmed. When the FBI tried to compel Apple earlier this year to unlock a suspect’s iPhone, Trump called for a boycott of Apple until the company would give in. Trump also said during his campaign that he’d want to put mosques under surveillance, and institute a national registry of Muslims residing in the U.S.

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