Signal to ditch SMS support for Android devices

Signal says it decided to part with SMS support because messages sent via the Signal interface on Android cannot be protected to the level of the company’s privacy standard.

Many Signal users recognize the app as a messaging platform and may not be aware that before Signal was created the company supported SMS for Android via the TextSecure app and the Signal encryption protocol, which was called Axolotl. SMS support continued long after the Signal app was introduced.

“But this came with a tradeoff: it meant that some messages sent and received via the Signal interface on Android were not protected by Signal’s strong privacy guarantees. We have now reached the point where SMS support no longer makes sense,” the company said in a blog post.

Signal claims it will focus more on developing its primary product, the Signal app. The support for SMS will be phased out gradually over “several months” to allow users to find alternatives.

“This change will only affect you if you use Signal as your default SMS app on Android. Meaning that you use Signal on Android to receive and send both Signal and SMS messages from within the Signal interface,” the company said.

According to Signal, the main reason to ditch support for SMS is to prioritize security and privacy since “SMS support from Android is that plaintext SMS messages are inherently insecure.”

The company claims that Android SMS text messages leak sensitive metadata and allow telecom companies to view the data.

“With privacy and security at the heart of what we do, letting a deeply insecure messaging protocol have a place in the Signal interface is inconsistent with our values and with what people expect when they open Signal,” the company said.

Other reasons to end support for SMS on Android devices were ensuring people aren’t hit with unexpected messaging bills and creating a clear and intelligible user experience for anyone sending messages on Signal.

Signal is considered among the safest communication apps in terms of privacy. Encryption is only one pro-privacy feature of the app, as Signal collects very little metadata.

Signal is run by the Signal Foundation and Signal Messenger LLC. The app was developed and launched by Moxie Marlinspike, an American cryptographer, in 2014. Four years later, in 2018, Brian Acton joined Signal to help establish the Signal foundation.

Marlinspike resigned as the CEO in early January this year. Acton has been serving as interim CEO since Marlinspike resigned. Last month the company appointed Meredith Whittaker as its first president, a newly created role in the company.

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