In case you didn’t know, WhatsApp is going to experience a massive change in less than a month’s time.
By 8 Feb 2021, WhatsApp users will have to share their data with Facebook in order to continue using the messenger app.
And, as expected, chaos ensued.
Here are 10 facts about WhatsApp new policy change that’s causing a big hoo-ha worldwide.
1. What Is It?
Users will have till 8 February 2021 to agree on the new terms.
Should users not agree with this new policy, they’ll no longer be able to use Whatsapp for texting.
According to Daily Mail, this requirement is for everyone, no matter whether you have a Facebook account or not.
2. What Data is Shared?
In essence, users’ private data, such as phone numbers, will be shared with Facebook, which is the parent company of Whatsapp.
The update is meant to serve as a form of integration across the Facebook Company products, which includes Instagram and Facebook Messenger.
Some data which Whatsapp automatically collects include information about your location, the device and connection you are using to access Whatsapp, as well as log information.
Things like the operating system you are using for Whatsapp, the battery level and IP address are information Whatsapp already has in the database.
This update will be implemented worldwide to more than 2 billion Whatsapp users.
3. Worldwide Except For Europe and The UK
Well, worldwide, except for people in Europe and the UK.
And the reason for that is because of the strict data protection laws in these places.
4. How Will The Information Be Used?
The new policy also provides details on how Whatsapp uses the information it has collected from users.
One of the ways in which Whatsapp uses the data is to verify accounts and protect its users against bad experiences and spam.
But here’s the thing: the company may also provide users marketing for its services and those of the Facebook Companies.
Which is why everyone’s going apeshit, because Facebook is going to know more about you: so much so that the advertisements you see on the app (and also on Instagram since Facebooks owns Instagram) might reveal a lot more about yourself.
Although it should be mentioned that Whatsapp will continue to disallow third-party banner ads. So we’re being sparred from these ads which interrupt us while we’re spamming emojis to our friends.
5. Facebook Won’t Read Your Messages
Some people were understandably worried, thinking that the app would be able to access your private messages and send them to Facebook for targetted advertisement, or for Mark Zuckerberg to read through before he goes to bed.
However, the company has stepped in to clear things up.
We want to address some rumors and be 100% clear we continue to protect your private messages with end-to-end encryption. pic.twitter.com/6qDnzQ98MP
— WhatsApp (@WhatsApp) January 12, 2021
In the tweet, a picture has also been shared, showing a list of things to clarify a few questions about the app
- WhatsApp cannot see your private messages or hear your calls and neither can Facebook.
- The app keeps logs of who everyone is messaging or calling.
- It cannot see your shared location and neither can Facebook.
- WhatsApp does not share your contacts with Facebook.
- Group chats remain private.
- You can set your messages to disappear.
- You can download your data.
6. How Businesses Use Data From WhatsApp
If you head over to their FAQ here, it also talks about business messaging and how it works with Facebook.
It states that businesses can use secure hosting services from Facebook to manage WhatsApp chats with their customers.
Communicating with a business by phone, email, or WhatsApp allows the app to see what you’re saying.
Businesses may use that information for their own marketing purposes, which may include advertising on Facebook.
This would in turn affect the kinds of ads you see on Facebook as well since it is adjusting to your preference.
And don’t forget, Facebook also owns Instagram, so they can also get data from there too.
At the very least, it’s been confirmed that there will be no third-party banner ads allowed.
7. Has Been Sharing Information Since 2016
WhatsApp was bought over by Facebook back in 2014.
Since 2016, it has been sharing information with Facebook.
The difference between 2021 and 2016 is, back then, WhatsApp users were offered a one-time opt-out for the data-sharing.
8. Signal, The Alternative Messenger App That’s Popular Right Now
On 7 January, business magnate, industrial designer and engineer Elon Musk came out with a decisive tweet, writing just two words: Use Signal.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 7, 2021
Signal is a free, messaging and voice talk app that’s supposedly privacy-focused.
With Signal, you’re able to text, voice or video call your friends, either one-on-one or in groups.
There are also emojis and stickers to signify those animated moments.
To join, you’ll only need your phone number – which may even be tweaked in the near future to ensure optimal privacy.
To know more about the alternative app, you can read our comprehensive article on it here.
9. Effects Of The Announcement
Okay, so far we’re talking in semantics and general terms, so here are the real effects of the announcement.
According to Daily Mail, millions have abandoned WhatsApp in the face of impending change.
Telegram had nearly 1.7 million downloads and Signal, 1.2 million downloads.
Meanwhile, for WhatsApp, it fell 13 per cent to 10.3 million downloads in the first seven days of 2021.
Jake Moore, a Cybersecurity Specialist at ESET, said that the phenomenon isn’t surprising, given how people might feel forced to give away their privacy.
It’s also understandable as Moore feels that it’s important, now more than ever, that people guard their privacy data zealously.
10. TL; DR: Should You Uninstall WhatsApp
In terms of using WhatsApp, nothing has changed. As mentioned in #5, you are still able to do the things you used to do in WhatsApp.
What has changed, however, is the type of information being shared with Facebook.
While WhatsApp will still encrypt text messages, “other, unencrypted data points” could pose a problem in the future, Anatoliy Gruzd, an associate professor and Canada Research Chair in privacy-preserving digital technologies at Ryerson University said.
And Facebook isn’t a stranger to privacy breaches and security vulnerabilities starting from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, he added.
Ultimately, the choice WhatsApp users have to make is a “trade-off”, where everyone has to assess the benefits and risks of their choice.
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Featured Image: Rahul Ramachandram / Shutterstock.com