The initial promise of continued privacy
Earlier data sharing with Facebook was optional, but now it isn’t. The terms clearly state that “WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with the other Facebook companies. We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them to help operate and market particular services”.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal has put the spotlight on privacy breaches and security vulnerabilities in Facebook. WhatsApp might still encrypt the text conversations, but other unencrypted data points might prove to be problematic in the future. Hence the major concern isn’t what WhatsApp is going to see now, but what it would be able to see with future updates.
The company clarified in a post on Twitter that neither WhatsApp nor any of the entities associated with Facebook can access the users’ conversations. Thus, the app’s essential policy- the end-to-end encrypted calls and chats are still there, and WhatsApp does not know what users are saying to each other. WhatsApp has clearly stated that it won’t share contacts with Facebook.
WhatsApp says it will not share contacts with Facebook, nor can WhatsApp or Facebook see users’ shared location. Messages can still be set to disappear, and groups remain private, the company clarified on Twitter recently.
The type of information that WhatsApp will now be able to share is the main difference.
According to the updated policy, other information that WhatsApp will share with Facebook includes the user’s browser information, language, time zone, IP address, and mobile network.
Data related to the phone’s battery level, signal strength, and connection information such as the internet service provider’s name will also be shared.
WhatsApp has clearly said that the new policy won’t affect the user’s private communication. The changes will affect only the user’s communication with businesses. WhatsApp today has more than 50 million business accounts, and the new policy gives these business accounts access to invaluable user data.
WhatsApp now has access to all the conversations that the user has with the third-party service providers. WhatsApp can now parse through the chat logs to see what the users are buying, the transaction value, and which products the users buy more frequently. It is widely believed that this information will then be used to create targeted Facebook ads.
WhatsApp has clarified that those businesses that operate on the WhatsApp platform can now utilize the infrastructure of Facebook to manage their chats with their consumers. Although using the Facebook infrastructure or sharing the data with Facebook entirely depends upon the businesses. The company has said that it will clearly label conversations with companies that use Facebook’s hosting infrastructure.
The policy isn’t the same around the world.
Due to the strict privacy protection laws implemented by the European Union, unlike the rest of the world, the European citizens won’t have to cope with WhatsApp’s same data-sharing changes. In a statement, Facebook said that there would be no changes for the European region, including the EU and the post-Brexit UK.
What can the users do?
Move to Signal or Telegram?
Within 72 hours of WhatsApp’s updated policy announcement, Signal received 25 million new users, and Telegram crossed the 500 million mark.
Signal is a secure messaging platform that has people like Elon Musk vouching for it. Unlike WhatsApp, Signal does not collect any user data at all. Signal, like WhatsApp, offers end-to-end encryption for data and calls.