Can You Use Sign With out Giving It Your Contacts?

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A Signal app splash screen on an iPhone.
Eliseu Geisler/

Signal is a privacy-focused encrypted chat answer, however the very first thing it desires after you join is entry to all of the contacts in your telephone. Right here’s why, what Sign really does with these contacts, and what utilizing Sign is like with out them.

Why Does Sign Need Your Contacts?

Sign works primarily based on telephone numbers. You want a telephone quantity to enroll. That telephone quantity identifies you on Sign. If somebody is aware of your telephone quantity, they’ll ship you a message on Sign. When you ship somebody a message on Sign, they’ll see your telephone quantity.

You can’t use Sign with out revealing your telephone quantity to the folks you contact. In different phrases, your Sign deal with is your telephone quantity. (The one method round that is to sign up with a secondary phone number, which individuals will see as a substitute.)

Like different trendy chat functions, Sign asks for entry to your iPhone or Android telephone’s contacts. Sign makes use of your contacts to seek out different folks you recognize who’re already utilizing Sign.

You don’t need to ask everybody you recognize whether or not they’re utilizing Sign. If a telephone quantity in your contacts is related to a Sign account, Sign will allow you to contact that particular person. Sign is designed to be an easy-to-use app that may shortly substitute SMS.

What meaning is, with entry to your contacts, whenever you faucet “New Message” in Sign, you’ll see a listing of individuals you recognize who’re utilizing Sign.

Signal suggesting contacts on the "New Message" screen.

Does Sign Inform Different Folks When You Be a part of?

If you be a part of Sign, different individuals who have you ever of their contacts will see a message that you just joined and at the moment are reachable on Sign.

This message isn’t despatched out of your Sign app and can seem even in the event you don’t give Sign entry to your contacts. Sign desires to let folks know that they’ll now attain you on Sign and don’t have to make use of SMS.

To be clear: If another person has your telephone quantity of their contacts, they’ll get a message saying that you just simply joined Sign in case your telephone quantity is used to create a Sign account. They’ll see no matter title they’ve related along with your telephone quantity of their contacts. That’s all that occurs whenever you be a part of. Sign won’t contact anybody in your contacts to allow them to know you’ve joined.

Does Sign Add Your Contacts to Its Servers?

Some chat apps add your contacts to the service’s servers, retailer them, and use them to match you with different folks you recognize on that service.

So it’s truthful to ask—is Sign importing all of your contacts and storing them without end?

No, Sign doesn’t retailer this info without end. Sign does hash telephone numbers and often sends them to its servers to assist everybody uncover which of their contacts is utilizing Sign. Right here’s how Signal’s documentation places it:

Sign periodically sends truncated cryptographically hashed telephone numbers for contact discovery. Names are by no means transmitted, and the data will not be saved on the servers. The server responds with the contacts which might be Sign customers after which instantly discards this info. Your telephone now is aware of which of your contacts is a Sign person and notifies you in case your contact simply began utilizing Sign.

What Occurs If You Don’t Give Entry to Contacts?

When you aren’t comfy with this, Sign does work with out entry to your contacts. It simply works somewhat in a different way—with out some helpful conveniences.

When you don’t give Sign entry to your contacts, it gained’t know who you recognize. You’ll have to both look ahead to these folks to contact you or use “Discover by Cellphone Quantity” and kind in somebody’s telephone quantity to contact them.

How will you recognize that different particular person is utilizing Sign? Properly, you’ll seemingly need to ask them utilizing one other chat service first. That is why Sign supplies contact discovery—slightly than having a dialog about utilizing Sign on one other chat service, you possibly can leap straight to speaking to somebody you recognize on Sign, even in the event you had no concept they beforehand signed up for Sign.

If you contact an individual for the primary time, you’ll simply see their telephone quantity. That’s as a result of Signal profiles are encrypted and the bottom line is solely shared along with your contacts and other people you contact. This ensures that folks can’t simply decide whose title is related to a specific telephone quantity by wanting it up on Sign.

The "Find by Phone Number" dialog in Signal.

Sign Works Finest With Your Contacts

In the end, Sign is designed to work finest whenever you give it entry to your contacts. It’s designed as a drop-in substitute for SMS.

Realistically, let’s be trustworthy: When you don’t belief Sign to deal with your contacts as privately because the documentation guarantees, then it may not be a good suggestion to belief Sign along with your conversations.

After all, you possibly can nonetheless use Sign with out giving it entry to your contacts. That’s your selection, however it is going to make it more durable to seek out and get in touch with folks you recognize on Sign.

You may even change your thoughts and provides Sign entry to your contacts after you begin utilizing it—simply head to your smartphone’s settings and provides the app entry to your contacts. On an iPhone, head to Settings > Privateness > Contacts or Settings > Sign to manage this. On an Android telephone, head to Settings > Apps & notifications > Sign > Permissions.

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