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Signal will finally let you protect your phone number

The end-to-end encrypted messaging app Signal is adding the ability to chat under a username, rather than having to share their phone number.

The need to share a phone number to connect on Signal has often been at odds with its intended purpose as an app designed with private communication in mind.

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Now Signal is doing more to protect users’ phone numbers. That will include enabling people to set up a unique username that negates the need to share their phone number to connect with a new contact. This is different to the profile name that users can set. The username can be changed as often as you wish, or deleted entirely.

A blog post today said: “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.

“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.”

You will still need a phone number to register with Signal, the company says, but users’ phone numbers will also be hidden now, by default, unless the contact already has it saved in their phone.

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“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,” the post continues.

The final change announced today enables users to control who is able to search for them in Signal by their 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,” Signal adds. “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.”

These changes are currently in beta with plans to roll out in the coming weeks.

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