Over the last week, nearly 2 billion people around the world who use WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned instant messaging service, were greeted with a giant pop-up when they launched the app.
Unless people agree to these new terms, they will be locked out of WhatsApp on Feb. 8.
Online, the backlash was swift. “Use Signal,” tweeted Tesla CEO Elon Musk to his 42 million followers, referring to the open source WhatsApp alternative popular with people who deal with sensitive information like journalists and activists. “I use [Signal] every day and I’m not dead yet,” tweeted American whistleblower Edward Snowden. In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s media office and the country’s defense ministry announced that they were dropping WhatsApp after the policy changes, and opened a probe into the move.
Signal became the top free app on both Google and Apple’s app stores in most countries around the world. More than 8,800,000 people downloaded Signal on iPhones and Android phones in the week of Jan. 4, compared to just 246,000 people the week before, according to data analytics firm Sensor Tower. Telegram, another WhatsApp alternative, said on Tuesday that more than 25 million people had joined in the last 72 hours.