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Signal to shield user phone numbers by default

Chat app Signal will shield user’s phone numbers by default from now on. And, it will no longer be necessary to exchange phone numbers when people want to connect through the app.

In November, we reported that Signal was testing usernames to eliminate the need to share your phone number. Signal has now announced that these options are live, and will be rolled out to everyone in the coming weeks.

So, what exactly has changed?

  • Your phone number will no longer be visible to everyone you chat with by default. People who already have your number saved in their phone’s contacts will still see it.
  • In case you don’t want to hand out your phone number to connect with someone on Signal, you can now create a unique username that you can use instead.
  • 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.

Note that the unique username is not your profile name which is displayed in chats, it’s not a permanent handle, and not even visible to the people you’re connected with in Signal.

The optional privacy setting will only allow people that have your exact unique username to start a conversation, even if they have your phone number.

During the transition, it is important to realize that both you and the people you are chatting with on Signal will need to be using the updated version of the app to take advantage of them.

The changes are optional. You are not required to create a username and you have full control over whether you want to enable people to find you by your phone number or not.

If you’d still like everyone to see your phone number when messaging them, you can change the default by going to Settings > Privacy > Phone Number > Who can see my number. You can either choose to have your phone number visible to Everyone you message on Signal or Nobody. If you select Nobody, the only people who will see your phone number in Signal are people who already have it saved to their phone’s contacts.

How to create a username on Signal

To create a username, go to Settings > Profile. A username on Signal (unlike a profile name) must be unique and must have two or more numbers at the end of it. This choice was made with the intention to help keep usernames egalitarian and minimize spoofing. Usernames can be changed as often as you like, and you can delete your username entirely if you prefer to no longer have one.

You will still have to have a phone number in order to create a Signal account as they act as a unique identification and anti-spam measure.

We don’t just report on privacy—we offer you the option to use it.

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Pieter Arntz

Malware Intelligence Researcher

Was a Microsoft MVP in consumer security for 12 years running. Can speak four languages. Smells of rich mahogany and leather-bound books.