Concerned about your privacy when texting or making phone calls? Signal is a popular secure private messaging app that everyone from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey to whistleblower Edward Snowden use, according to the app’s website. It has also gained popularity during the recent pandemic and during protests as a way to communicate safely. Even WhatsApp uses Signal’s open-source safety protocols for its own app.

Thinking about using it for yourself? Here’s everything you need to know about Signal, from how to use it, to the details on just how safe it is to use.

What is Signal?

Signal private messenger

Signal is a free private messaging app that you can use to:

  • send text messages
  • send photos
  • send voice messages
  • make calls
  • make video calls

One of the biggest reasons Signals is so popular is that it uses end-to-end encryption that prevents others, including the government, from accessing and monitoring messages. Also, messages are stored locally, on your device, not in the cloud. This means that the company isn’t storing—and potentially sharing—your private messages. Signal also doesn’t access your private data, share your information in the cloud, or accept advertising. We’ll talk more about Signal’s safety features later. (Before selling or recycling your old phone, read up on how to delete everything on your iPhone.)

Signal for iOS and Android

Signal is available for both iOS and Android and also available to download on your PC or Mac. You can download Signal directly from the Signal download page, the Apple Store if you have an iPhone, or Google Play if you have an Android.

How Signal works

Signal encryption

Both calls and messages sent through the Signal app have end-to-end encryption. What this means is that your message is encrypted in the app before it is sent out to your network and the internet. It remains encrypted until it reaches the recipient, where it is decrypted inside of the recipient’s app. “This provides a higher level of security than previous generations of messaging apps, that only provided encryption in the form of HTTPS,” explained Cody Beers, technical training manager at WhiteHat Security. No one, not even Signal, can see your messages except for the person you send the message to.

It’s important to note, however, that this encryption only works if the person you’re sending the message to also uses Signal if they use an Android device. (On Apple devices, all messages are encrypted, no matter if the recipient is using Signal or not.) You’ll know if you see a locked icon next to the send button after you enter the recipient’s phone number. (Here’s how to tell if your phone has been hacked.)

Signal features

Signal has everything you want in a good messaging app, including:

  • Group chats. Group chats on Signal can have up to 150 participants. For comparison’s sake, iPhones can have a max of 25 participants, depending on your carrier that number may be as low as ten.
  • View-once Media. You can choose to have a photo or video disappear after the recipient(s) see it. Unlike other apps, Signal prevents the recipient from taking a screenshot of your image. It’s still possible, of course, that someone may take a photo of the message using a different phone or camera, so you still need to think twice before sending anything truly private.
  • Photo editing. Some editing features within the app include adding text, drawing, face blurring (helpful if you want to conceal someone’s identity in a photo), and stickers.
  • Additional media and information. You can add emojis, GIFs, contact information, voice messages, or your location to any message
  • Note to Self. Instead of choosing a person from the contacts list, you can choose “Note to Self,” which essentially sends messages to yourself. The note will be sent to all of your devices that are linked to your Signal account.

Is Signal safe?

Signal prides itself on keeping you and your information safe in several different ways. For one, “Signal is also an open-source app, meaning the code can be reviewed by anyone to make sure there are no flaws in the app and its system,” says Chris Hauk, consumer privacy champion at Pixel Privacy.

Additionally, Signal says that it does not “collect or store any sensitive information. “Signal messages and calls cannot be accessed by us or other third parties because they are always end-to-end encrypted, private, and secure.” Another plus is that it doesn’t accept advertisements, so it “doesn’t share your info with advertisers or any other Nosy Nellies,” adds Hauk.

A measure you can take to keep it as safe as possible is to lock the app so that it can only be opened by your phone’s screen lock password or fingerprint. You can even prevent your phone’s keyboard from using its AI learning features when you have the app open by changing your privacy settings. (Here’s how to clear cookies from your phone.)

Can Signal be tracked?

Signal not only encrypts messages, but it also hides virtually all metadata associated with the message, including who sent the message, Hauk explains. “That means only the person who sent the message or received the message knows who the sender is,” he says.

Even with all of these security features, just like with other apps, it isn’t 100 percent secure. While Signal makes it harder for hackers, the app can potentially be hacked through spyware apps. These apps can log keystrokes and take screenshots of other apps, making it possible for a hacker to monitor a Signal conversation.

Can Signal messages be retrieved?

“Signal does not store messages, conversation histories, or encryption keys in the cloud, the messages are stored only on the user’s device in an encrypted format,” says Hauk. Since messages and calls are stored locally on your device instead of the cloud, Signal has no way to retrieve your messages if your phone is lost or stolen, nor can they turn them over to law enforcement.

Next, check out 40 iPhone tricks that will make things so much easier.

If you’re looking for a unique way to celebrate your sweetheart, we have a tasty idea. You can skip the bouquet or roses or carnations! Instead, pick up something delicious—like a bacon bouquet.

How Order a Bacon Bouquet

Bacon Bouquets is a company that specializes in edible bacon arrangements. Seriously. The thick cut bacon is sourced from farms in North Texas. Then, after being hand-seasoned, each bacon rosebud is hand-shaped and baked in the oven. It even comes with re-heating instructions so you get to enjoy warm, crispy bacon. Yum…bacon!

Right now, they’re running a Valentine’s Day special. You can score a half dozen bacon roses for $51 or a dozen roses for $84 (on sale from $151). If those prices are not in your budget, then there’s always a DIY option. (Here are the mistakes everybody makes when cooking bacon.)

How Do I Make a Bacon Bouquet?

Making this edible arrangement for Valentine’s Day should be too difficult, even for beginning crafters. You’ll need:

  • Strips of thick cut bacon
  • Maple syrup or honey
  • Toothpicks
  • Fake flower stems

Tightly roll the bacon one piece at a time. Stick toothpicks through the middle to create an “X” that will help your rose stand upright while baking. Then, once all your roses are rolled, cover a baking sheet with foil, and bake that bacon to perfection. You want the bacon to be cooked all the way through and the outside edges crisp. Once they’re cool, remove the toothpicks, secure each rosebud to a stem and present to your special someone.

Next, check out these fascinating Valentine’s Day facts from around the world.

Walking into our bedroom, I found my husband, Barry, looking forlorn, sitting on the edge of the bed. I sat down beside him, put my arm around his shoulders and quietly said “I love you.” He turned and said “I’m so glad you said that.” It was then I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I had told him that I loved him.

I was so wrapped up in looking after him for the past few years, taking him to medical appointments, making sure I had all his medication with me, as well as a sandwich in case we had to be in the waiting room over lunchtime—which was often. We always got there before 10:30 a.m. for an 11 a.m. appointment to find the waiting room full of patients with appointments for much earlier than ours. Luckily, some kind person would usually give Barry a seat. As soon as noon arrived, I would get out his lunch and a small bottle of water. His pills had to be taken at specific times with food. Eating a sandwich in a crowded waiting room and taking medication while squashed between two other patients, was embarrassing and uncomfortable.

Towards the end, there were nights we had to call the ambulance to take him to the hospital where he would be kept for observation and then released the next day with new medication. Barry, who had always been in charge of things, now had no control over his life.

We had a wheelchair lifter put in the back of our van because it was difficult for me to get the chair in and out. I never really got the hang of it and it would be tossed around in the back as we drove. I remember one time we had the last medical appointment of the day and it was cold, dark and raining. The other cars were all leaving and I was having difficulty hooking the heavy wheelchair onto the lifter to get it in the back of the van. I just didn’t have the strength but then an angel appeared out of the darkness and immediately took hold of the chair saying “Here, let me help you.” This kind lady made sure the wheelchair was secured and asked if there was anything else she could do to help. I had been trying for about ten minutes and any cars still parked when we had come out had slowly driven by and left. All I could do was keep thanking this wonderful lady—it didn’t seem enough.

It has been over a year now since my dear Barry died. It was a good time for him to leave us and not have to suffer through this pandemic. I think of him every day and I am thankful for the 59 years and three wonderful children we had together. I am also so thankful that he l knew I loved him because I was able to tell him, even at the end.

Next, read the heartwarming story of how a very special quilt keeps a widow’s memory of her husband alive.

The subject heading on the email was surprisingly mundane: “Final pre-op appointment letter.” It sat in my inbox for hours before I finally opened it, believing it was just another pre-screening for the kidney transplant I desperately needed. There was a list of appointments and test dates, and at the bottom—almost as an afterthought—it said: “Your kidney transplant surgery has been scheduled for Thursday, June 13, 2019.”

I stopped cold. I had to reread that line several times before I could start to grasp what it really meant: my cousin Christine really was going to risk her life in order to save mine.

Back in January 2018, at age 37, I had started feeling exhausted and extremely itchy and cold all the time. I chalked it up to dry, winter skin and working too hard. Another two months passed before I tested my blood pressure at the grocery store, and the shockingly high reading prompted me to make a doctor’s appointment.

My GP ran a few tests, and I continued on with my life. I’m a television reporter at CityNews Toronto, and I was in a car heading to an interview when I got the call: my kidneys were failing. On my doctor’s advice, I hightailed it to the nearest emergency room, and was admitted.

There I was, decked out in a hospital gown with camera-ready hair and makeup. I couldn’t believe what was happening—even though kidney disease runs in my family. My father had spent four years on dialysis before receiving a transplant; he passed away at 50 from a complication of the disease. I knew that I had inherited a rare kidney condition, Alport syndrome, from my dad, but I had been regularly monitored until I was 18, and my doctors didn’t think it would be an issue. Most women who have it are carriers but don’t have symptoms. I was supposed to be in the clear.

My mother immediately started the process for becoming a living donor. But she had to lose 50 pounds before her application would be considered. While she got on the treadmill, my kidney specialist and his team tried to help me stave off complete organ failure. He was frank about my situation, but optimistic. He told me I would need dialysis and that with end-stage kidney failure I was essentially sterile and unlikely to be able to have children until I received a transplant. And if I didn’t get a transplant, I would eventually die.

Many doctors would have rolled me straight to surgery to install the dialysis equipment, but he thought I might be able to avoid it with the right combination of vitamins, prescription drugs and dietary changes—and if I didn’t have to wait too long for a transplant.

After three days, I was released from the hospital but returned for countless blood tests and appointments. I also had to go through a transplant workup: ultrasounds, cardiovascular tests and even vascular tests to see if I was able to undergo hemodialysis (having blood removed and cleaned through a machine, then pumped back in).

My diet changed dramatically, too; no more Diet Cokes, no more pickles and no more cheese, because my body couldn’t filter out all the phosphorus and sodium. I had to limit my liquid intake to less than 1.5 litres a day and chewed gum to quench my thirst. I had to take a battery of pills—vitamins, minerals and prescription drugs—and get weekly shots to keep my hemoglobin levels high.

After five months, my kidney function dropped further, and my symptoms got worse. I had restless-leg syndrome and could barely sleep; I was so exhausted that some days I couldn’t get out of bed. Seemingly easy tasks, like putting away laundry, became monumental. Though the process to determine if my mother could be a donor was still under way, I couldn’t wait much longer. In August 2018, a catheter was inserted into my stomach. By September, I was doing peritoneal dialysis every night at home in order to do the work my kidneys usually do. For nine to 10 hours at a time, I became a prisoner to my dialysis machine.

During this time, my mother lost the weight, but due to the reduced kidney function that comes with age, she was ultimately deemed an unsuitable candidate. I was put on the wait-list for a deceased donor, but I was advised that, given my blood type, I wasn’t likely to be called for seven years—if I could survive that long.

And then Christine stepped up.

My extended family is fairly close, but I didn’t spend much time with my cousin Christine Hodgkinson when we were kids. She’s 17 years older than me, so she wasn’t a playmate; she was someone I looked up to. I remember being eight or nine and asking her if I would get her high cheekbones and beautiful eyes when I grew up. Little did I know that I would end up getting something else instead.

Christine, a mother of five in her mid-50s, had already gone through the process to be a living donor when her father-in-law needed a transplant several years before. She was a match, but a blood relative was ultimately a better option. Now here she was willing to go through it all again.

Familial organ donations are often best, and recipients of organs from a live donor typically have better outcomes. Transplant coordinators will only look at one candidate at a time, so once my mother was off the list, my sister—who isn’t eligible to donate because she shares the same genetic variant as me—immediately called Christine, who had offered to be tested when I was first diagnosed.

I didn’t want to put Christine in a difficult position by reaching out to her directly. It’s not exactly an easy ask. You aren’t borrowing a dress or even a couple thousand dollars—you are asking somebody to undergo major surgery. The procedure for a living donor can be longer and riskier than that of the recipient. Kidneys are protected by a variety of other organs, which means there’s a chance that those organs and their surrounding tissue could be injured during the removal process. Even if the transplant was a success, she would still assume the potential for future high blood pressure or kidney problems, among other issues—all so I wouldn’t have to be tied up to a dialysis machine every night.

Despite the sacrifices, Christine told my sister she would do it. After she completed the initial tests, it took five months to confirm that she was a suitable match. Although she was busy helping to care for her seriously ill father, Christine regularly made the 90-minute drive from her Keswick, Ont., home to downtown Toronto for testing. Sometimes the tests were scheduled so early that she’d leave home before dawn or stay in a hotel the night before.

Christine and I had our final pre-op appointments on the same day, and that’s when the reality of what we were doing sunk in. I was petrified about what could happen to Christine and to me. What if the transplant didn’t work?

Two days later, I called Christine to see if she would be okay with postponing the surgery for a few weeks. I felt like I needed more time to process what was happening. She talked me off the ledge, reassuring me that she knew the risks and was willing to take them. Then we joked about how horrible our hair would look after spending days in the hospital. By the end of our call, I felt reassured that Christine truly wanted to do this—and so did I.

Christine and I didn’t get to see each other on the morning of the transplant. She went into surgery hours before me, while I was surrounded by family in the waiting area. Surgeons removed her kidney, staff cleaned the operating room and then the team transplanted her kidney into my body—close to my groin, attached to the femoral artery, leaving my non-functioning kidneys in place because removing them could harm my other organs.

Cousin Saved My Life Kidney Transplant 2
Cristina (left) reunited with Christine a few days after the transplant.

Hours after the surgery, I woke up to cheers from the street: the Toronto Raptors had just won their first NBA championship. Those hoots and hollers weren’t for Christine or me, but they may as well have been. For the first night in 10 months, I wasn’t plugged into a dialysis machine.

I spent the next few days in a drug-induced haze in the equivalent of a transplant-only ICU, while Christine recovered on another floor. When we finally saw each other in my room, the newly formed bond between us was remarkable. I felt completely linked to her, like we were sisters. She would never again be a cousin who I only saw at holidays and weddings. I had a girlfriend visiting at the time, and Christine put her phone in camera mode, handed it over to my friend and then gave me a giant hug. That photo, which is displayed in my home office, is now an iconic one in our family.

Christine was discharged a few days later and spent the summer recovering with seemingly no setbacks. My recovery was more gradual, but I felt the impact of her kidney almost immediately. After I sobered up from the pain meds, I felt years younger. I didn’t have to drag myself out of bed or deal with hours of dialysis every night—and I could last an entire day without needing a nap.

Although I’m on the other side of my surgery now, I will always have kidney disease. I need to take certain medications for the rest of my life; the immunosuppressants I’m on—to ensure my body doesn’t reject the new kidney—make me vulnerable to disease and viral infection. They also have radically increased my risk of skin cancer, so I can’t go outside without lathering up in sunblock. I go for blood work every week, and if my levels of creatinine (a toxic waste product) are too high, I’ll be readmitted to hospital.

That’s what happened on Labour Day weekend in 2019. I was ready to go away with my partner on our first overnight trip in years where we didn’t have to bring a 50-pound dialysis machine and enough supplies to be mistaken for exhibitors at a medical trade show. We were about to leave the house when I got the call.

My creatinine levels were rising: they were more than double those of a healthy person, and my nephrologist wanted to admit me to the hospital. He was concerned that my body was rejecting Christine’s kidney. When I got off the phone, I sat on the floor of my bedroom, next to my suitcase, and sobbed—about the potential loss of the kidney, what that would mean for my gradual return to normalcy and also the horrible possibility that all of Christine’s heroic efforts might have been in vain.

I told just a handful of people that I was back in the hospital; I decided only to let Christine know if things escalated. My doctors weren’t sure what caused the spike, but after two days on an IV, my creatinine levels started returning to normal.

I was waiting to be discharged when Christine sent me a text. “Hey there. How are you feeling? Hope everything is still going well.” We hadn’t spoken in about a week. I told her about the false alarm. She’d later tell me that she felt something was wrong all weekend.

A few weeks after my scare, Christine told me that her single kidney had grown (which is common for solo kidneys as they pick up a bigger workload) and she now had 70 per cent functionality. That was the first night in months where I slept soundly. We were both going to be all right.

I returned to work in October 2019 and feel even more invigorated than before my diagnosis. I’m able to fully enjoy life, whether it’s going to my annual girls’ Christmas party without falling asleep on the couch or taking long walks with my partner.

A year ago, I was tied to a machine every night, dreaming of better days. Now they’re here.

© 2020, Cristina Howorun. From “My Cousin Gave Me Her Kidney and Saved My Life,” Chatelaine (January 9, 2020),

Check out more acts of kindness that will warm your heart.

The Newlyweds Versus The Volcano

After Her Husband Fell Into a Dormant Volcano on Their Honeymoon, This Woman Had to Carry Him to Safety Alone

A dream honeymoon hike to the rim of a jungle crater ends with a terrible fall. Now a young bride must get her severely injured husband medical care—by herself.

Illustration of the Rigopiano avalanche

How a Group of Tourists Survived a Devastating Avalanche in the Italian Alps

Forty people gathered at a hotel high in the Italian Alps. Then came the earthquake, the devastating avalanche—and the race to find survivors.

Grizzly bear attack

How a Pocket Knife Saved This Man During a Grizzly Bear Attack

Alone on a mountain and pinned under a grizzly, Colin Dowler reached for a pocket knife and struggled for his life.

Mid-air rescue

He Was Dangling Upside Down From An Airplane When Two Pilots Came To His Rescue

When Walter Osipoff’s parachute caught on his plane’s tail, leaving him dangling high above San Diego, his only hope was a daring mid-air rescue.

The woman who wrestled a cougar - portrait of a cougar

The Woman Who Wrestled a Cougar

With no one to call for help, Larrane Leech put herself face-to-face with a young cougar to protect the children in her daycare. A Reader’s Digest Canada classic, originally published in 1993.

View from atop Burke Mountain

To Get Help, This Man Had To Leave His Kids on a Cliff. He Prayed They Would Survive

God asks us to forgive others, but if you’re responsible for your children’s demise, how do you ever forgive yourself?

Bali jungle illustration

How A Facebook Thread Saved Two Friends Who Were Gravely Injured in the Bali Jungle

Michael Lythcott and Stacey Eno’s scooter ran off the road, leaving them broken, bleeding and trapped in a Balinese jungle. Worse: no one knew. Then Michael, hours from death, got a signal on his phone.

Medical mystery - boy survive skewer in head

This 10-Year-Old Got Impaled By A Skewer. Could Doctors Remove It In Time?

Xavier Cunningham fell onto a rotisserie skewer and impaled his face. Doctors couldn’t believe he was still alive.

Snakebite illustration
A Snakebite Turned This Woman’s Thailand Vacation Into a Fight for Her Life

Doctors raced to find an antidote as the snake’s venom spread through Shalabha Kalliath’s body, attacking her organs and inching her closer to death.

Fire surrounding a car on a highway

Fire Tornado!

Unstoppable wildfires are becoming the new normal. In 2018, an inferno that reached 1,500 degrees Celsius left a trail of destruction and death in Northern California. Here’s the truly terrifying story of the people trapped in the flames.

40 Hours Lost at Sea

Ordered to abandon ship in heavy weather, a badly injured second officer survives for nearly 40 hours in churning seas off Thailand.

Free Fall at Death Canyon

Her climbing rope had malfunctioned. Now, 275 metres above the floor of Wyoming’s Death Canyon, Lauren McLean clung to a ledge barely wide enough to support her broken body. And a storm was rolling in. A Reader’s Digest classic, originally published in 2014.

Glacier illustration

Trapped Inside a Glacier

Mountain climbers often fall through cracks in the ice, but those who survive haven’t fallen a long way, aren’t by themselves and aren’t injured. John All was all three.

Jeremy Osheim and Molei Wright

“Don’t Die. I Love You.”

A devastating collision left Molei Wright’s head attached to her shoulders by nothing but skin and muscle. The odds of surviving the condition, known as internal decapitation, are one in 100.

Bitten by a decapitated rattlesnake

The Rattler’s Revenge

When Jeremy Sutcliffe decapitated the poisonous snake, he assumed that would be the end of it. He was wrong.

Russian adventurer Sergey Ananov

Stalked By a Polar Bear

After crash landing in the frigid waters of the Davis Straight, Russian helicopter pilot Sergey Ananov must battle severe hypothermia, crushing fear and one very persistent predator.

Barry Lynch was pinned under a 10-ton trailer

Pinned to the Earth—With Only a Pocket Knife to Escape

The sugar-cane paddock was quiet as Barry Lynch’s scream pierced the air. The farmer was pinned to the earth by a 10-ton trailer and kilometres away from help.

I got attacked by a shark

Shark Attack

“Something huge hit me with tremendous force on my left side and heaved me through the water. I realized I had been attacked by a shark.”

Avalanche on mountain

On Fragile Ground: Trapped and Alone on Mount Logan

Natalia Martinez’s ambition to stake a claim for female climbers took her to Canada’s highest peak. That same determination would save her life.

An abandoned car in a Manitoba snowstorm

Blizzard Bound

The day had dawned crisp and clear, but early spring can be an unpredictable time on northern roads. Ernest Castel and his passengers would soon be stranded in their car, buried under a massive Manitoba snowstorm.

Sydnie Uemoto and her co-pilot Dave McMahon

Two Pilots Were Flying from Oahu to Hawaii—Then They Heard the Engines Go Quiet

They swam through jellyfish, the threat of sharks and 25 kilometres of exhaustion before being sighted.

David Finlayson snapped this photo of his son, Charlie, in the Bighorn Crags shortly before they attempted their most complex climb.

The River of No Return

When a rock-climbing trip goes disastrously wrong, a 13-year-old boy is forced to make a heartrending decision: should he leave his severely injured father to look for help?

Drama in Real Life - airplane crisis

Failure on Flight 516

High over northern Russia, an airplane’s control systems begin switching off, one by one…

Strong rapids

Stranded at the Top of a Waterfall, These Rafters’ Only Hope Was to Send a Message in a Bottle

It was a long shot… but it worked.

wolf snarling

The Chilling Story of a Wolf That Tore Into a Family’s Tent During the Night

“Backing out was a wolf, dragging something in his teeth. That thing was a man.”

Next, check out these good news stories from around the world.

If divorce drove me from New Zealand to the United Kingdom in 1996, it was marriage that drew me five years later to Jasper, Alberta. And once more I had to embrace a new way of living. It was just as well that I had a powerful incentive, as the extreme cold for which Canada was known terrified me.

But I discovered that Canadians had found the antidote to cold temperatures in their centrally heated and exceptionally well-insulated houses. I was astonished to be warmer in my Jasper home during the depths of winter than I’d been in temperate New Zealand in an uninsulated house.

Blissfully warm indoors, I turned my attention to withstanding the cold outdoors. Down proved supremely effective, and once I adjusted to my new silhouette, not dissimilar to that of a Sumo wrestler, I relaxed in the cocooning coziness of my down jacket. With the addition of a toque, sky gloves and Sorels, I was ready for winter.

Or so I thought. Correct attire kept me warm, but it couldn’t help me balance on icy sidewalks. I had to relearn how to talk, exchanging my long strides for the indignity of a penguin’s waddle. One winter’s afternoon, I arrived at an icy intersection just as a car pulled up. I waved the driver on, as I would be slow to cross, but with typical Canadian courtesy, he insisted I go ahead. Oh, the humiliation of hobbling across the ice-rutted road with him watching every one of my painstaking steps!

Fear of slipping and injuring myself threatened to turn me into a recluse until my husband Phil bought me a pair of cleats for my boots. They gave me the freedom to walk safely downtown, but had one major drawback: they were difficult to put on and take off. The task was manageable at home, where I could rest my feet on a backdoor step, but this option wasn’t available while shopping. I was guilt-ridden at the damage the cleats might cause to the floor and so I skulked around, treading lightly to lessen the cleats’ telltale “clack, clack clack.” I suppose I could have sat on my bottom like a toddler to ease the cleats on and off, but that never appealed to me.

With my warmth and safety secured, all that remained was to deal with my negative attitude towards the cold. Greetings of, “Isn’t it a beautiful day?” when the temperature was well below zero initially baffled me if not irritated me. But when I experienced how wind chill made my cheeks ache and extreme cold made icicles of my nasal hairs and turned my earrings into instruments of torture, I too came to realize that any sunny winter’s day without wind and severe cold was, indeed, a beautiful day. (Don’t miss this gorgeous gallery of Canadian winter photography.)

Another discovery awaited me. I had always loved watching snow fall; it was mesmerizing and I never tired of it. Even at night, I would gaze at the snowflakes illuminated in the streetlight, eddying down as gently and softly as feathers, muffling all sound.

A greater delight was to walk in the snow with it falling around me. Wonderfully dry, it didn’t melt and saturate my clothing, but rather adorned it with tiny white diamonds so fragile they could be scattered by a single breath. Filigree-like flakes alighting on my face produced childlike wonder, as did opening my mouth and catching snowflakes on my tongue. (These photos will make you want to pack your bags for Jasper.)

It was at such moments I realized a change was taking place—just as Phil had captured my heart, so too had Canada.

Next, find out what another recent immigrant wishes he’d known before moving to Canada.

Are you using Apple privacy settings on your iPhone? If not, you may want to reconsider just how much personal information can be exposed. Arbitrary details, such as where you shop, where you work or how you get around town may seem irrelevant but when data is collected and compiled by third-party apps, privacy can easily be breached. Using security features is important to secure your iPhone and prevent a cybercriminal from infiltrating your smartphone.

The iPhone doesn’t have a privacy mode, as Android phones do, but there are Apple privacy settings users can enable to reduce the likelihood their personal information will be compromised. Managing apps permissions is an important step to take back some control of what private information is shared about you and gathered online. (Learn how to spot spam texts on an iPhone or Android.)

iPhone privacy features

iPhones are known to be better than Androids when it comes to privacy and security “primarily because Apple does a better job of forcing users to keep their operating system up to date,” says Jack Vonder Heide, president of Technology Briefing Centers, Inc. and a frequent speaker on privacy and security topics. Privacy features on Apple devices include the following:


Passcodes are a combination of words and letters to access and unlock a device that the user sets. It’s important to create a complex passcode that isn’t easy to crack. It’s also important to use them; iPhones give you the option to turn them off and if you do and your phone winds up in the wrong hands, you’ll have lost this initial layer of defense. (Here’s how to tell if your phone has been hacked.) 

iPhone privacy menu showing fingerprint touch ID and passcode options

Touch ID

Touch ID is a type of biometric technology, using fingerprints as a layer of security to unlock your device as an alternative to a passcode. The first iPhones to have Touch ID are the iPhone 5s and models up to iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone SE have Touch ID installed.

Face ID

When iPhone X debuted without a home button, Apple introduced Face ID. This facial recognition, a form of biometric technology, allows users to unlock their devices, make payments, and access sensitive information by holding their phones up to their faces. iPhones X through iPhone 12 Pro Max have Face ID. (This is how to spot Apple ID phishing scams.)

Two-factor authentication (2FA)

This is a layered process that requires a one-time code sent to another device, such as your computer or tablet, along with your passcode for more security. “The best protection is 2FA because it is unlikely that a hacker would have the two vital pieces of information needed to log into your accounts,” says Jonathan Simon, professor of digital marketing at the Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa. Additionally, there have been situations where biometrics have been replicated by fingerprint scanners and the like, compromising users’ personal data.

Phone screen from privacy menu in location settings, showing significant locations

Location settings

Apple devices are constantly collecting data about you, including tracking your location—when, where, and how frequently you visit a place—to identify your significant locations and offer location-based services ranging from helping you locate the nearest gas station to alerting responders to your location in an emergency. While Apple states they don’t sell your data, the apps you use might to third parties for targeted marketing. “In most cases, you give permission for the app to monitor your location on a continuous basis and to share that data with others.[…] that analyze your activity and push customized advertising to your phone,” Heide says. (You should never post these photos on social media.)

Managing your location settings is fundamental to minimizing the amount of personal information you inadvertently give, especially with apps that don’t need your location to function properly. “People tend to believe they don’t have a thing to hide […but] anyone should be cautious of location tracking and manage it accordingly,” says Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “Technology called fingerprinting cross-matched with the location parameters makes it possible to know who you are and what you were up to without your consent,” he warns.

iPhone privacy settings menu

How to manage app permissions

Managing app permissions is key to minimizing how much personal information is collected from you. “Apps are always tracking your data,” Simon says. “They know when you downloaded the app, when you open it, how much time you are spending in it, and any action you take in the app.” Although there is some information you can eliminate without removing the app, “you should determine what value you are getting from each app and then decide if the information you are required to give is worth it,” Heide suggests. Before installing any app, read the Privacy Policy. “You should never give a ‘go’ to everything an app is asking for, except for the permissions an app cannot function without,” Markuson recommends. Some apps, for example, need to track your location in order to function, such as weather apps, ride-sharing, or food delivery ones, but you can choose to turn off tracking when you’re not actively using the app. Many smartphone apps steal your data so it’s a good idea to monitor your privacy settings. (Here’s how to delete everything on your iPhone.)

How to check app permissions on your iPhone

To check your app permissions, go to Settings —> Privacy. A list of different categories, such as Location Tracking, Bluetooth, Contacts, Microphone, Photos, and more will appear. You can click on each specific category to see which apps have access to that data. You can grant or revoke permissions as you see fit.

Next, read about how to clear cookies from your phone.

The past year has proven that if given enough time indoors, people will come up with amazing DIY projects to entertain themselves—and the public. The next creative trend involves making a blooming marshmallow.

OK, what’s a blooming marshmallow?

In simplest terms, these marshmallows look like closed flowers, and once you add them to a cup of hot cocoa, the petals start expanding. It’s a visual trick that tastes as good as it looks!

@flamingodiy5Wait for it ! #hot_chocolate #hotchocolate #blooming #marshmallow♬ original sound – Flamingo DIY

Some versions are simpler while others are more elaborately decorated, but the general premise remains the same. You can check out the recipe from our friends at Totally the Bomb.

You start by making the marshmallows from scratch with corn syrup, water, unflavored gelatin and sugar. Then, you spread the mixture into a baking sheet dusted with corn starch and powdered sugar and wait until it sets up.

The secret that makes marshmallow flowers bloom is a base of melted chocolate. You spread the chocolate thinly in silicone molds, then use a flower-shaped cookie cutter to form the shapes and decorate them how you like. The marshmallow flowers are placed into the chocolate cups.

The final step is adding the fruits of your labour to a hot beverage and watching them bloom!

How to customize your blooming marshmallow

You can decorate the marshmallow flowers in so many ways. I like the idea of using food colouring to paint and decorate the marshmallow petals. Many of the versions online use candy pearls in the centre, but we think coloured sugar would also work nicely. To change the marshmallow’s flavour, add flavourings like vanilla or peppermint or make a vegan version using agar powder instead of gelatin. Cheers!

Next, check out the best hot chocolate recipes to warm up this winter.