Those who have already tried Signal would know, the first thing it does after you sign up is asking access to your contact list. That brings us to the first question.
Why do I have to share my contact list?
Just like WhatsApp, Signal identifies you by your phone number. That means you will be connecting with the ones you know the phone number of. Anyone who has your number will be able to contact you and vice versa. So first, you cannot be one Signal without revealing your phone number.
As most social media apps do, Signal also uses your contact list to find people you might know. We know that’s handy because we don’t have to ask everyone whether they are on Signal. Instead, it will notify you about people who are on Signal that are on your contact list.
When you tap on the ‘new message’ button, you will see a filtered version of your contact list. This list only includes those who use Signal.
Is my contact list for my eyes only?
I know how it feels to know that your contact list might be stored somewhere else. Some messaging apps do upload this information to their cloud servers. But here we are talking about a privacy-focused chat application.
So, while Signal actually does upload your contact list to the cloud, it only sends a hashed version of contacts. The developers of the app have mentioned this in their documentation. That brings us to the other question.
Is using Signal without sharing contacts doable?
Yes, that is doable. But some features will be missing from the app. Like I mentioned above, without access to contacts, it won’t be able to show who on your contacts is also on Signal.
However, Signal has a feature that could help. With the ‘find by phone number’ option, you can type in someone’s phone number and it will show you if that person is on Signal.
So now it’s clear that while you actually can use Signal without sharing contacts, it won’t be a fluid experience. You can try using Signal without sharing contacts at first. And if you change your mind later, you can always share the contact list from the settings inside the application.