You’ve probably read about a ‘new policy update‘ that WhatsApp will be rolling out on February 8th, 2021 that involves the mandatory sharing of your data with parent company Facebook. Here are 7 key points regarding this update that you should know:
1. WhatsApp & Facebook was already sharing your data since 2016
When acquired in 2014, a new user agreement at that time indicated that WhatsApp will share your phone number associated with your WhatsApp account with Facebook. It would also share analytics such as what devices and operating systems are being used.
You can check whether you had opted out back in 2016 through the “Request account info” function in Settings.
2. Your messages would not be shared*
End-to-End encryption is still a strong selling point for WhatsApp and continues to be the case even after the February update. This means that Messages, photos, and other content you send and receive on WhatsApp can only be viewed on your smartphone and the devices of the people you choose to message with. WhatsApp and Facebook itself can’t access your communications. In fact, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly affirmed his commitment to expanding end-to-end encryption offerings as part of tying the company’s different communication platforms together.
* CyberSafeTT would like to comment on this by saying that we have personally experienced ads being displayed on Facebook related to content that was shared via WhatsApp messages. While we have no further proof of validation of why this happens, it does make you question data privacy.
3. What data will be shared between the platforms?
4. Why is Facebook / WhatsApp doing this?
The information shared would be used by Facebook and its other products to make suggestions for you, personalize features and content, help you complete purchases and transactions, and show relevant offers and ads across the Facebook Company Products
The Facebook products include Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Portal-branded devices, Oculus Products, Facebook Shops, Spark AR Studio, Audience Network, NPE Team apps and any other features, apps, technologies, software, products or services offered by Facebook Inc.
In short, Facebook intends to use the information to curate a better user experience for you and by extension, make it more likely for you to engage and or purchase products and services (offered by third-party-vendors) on it’s platforms.
5. Can I opt-out of this new update and not share my data?
Unfortunately, this is a share it or leave it scenario, and there is no opt-out option.
Therefore, if you don’t agree, the same alert suggests you delete your account.
6. Uninstalling the app from your phone does not stop the sharing!
WhatsApp says that when you delete your WhatsApp account, your undelivered messages are deleted from its servers along with any of your other information it no longer needs to operate and provide its services.
However, users must ensure they not only uninstall WhatsApp, but must delete their account from WhatsApp. This can be done by going to settings > Account and selecting ‘Delete my account’.
7. What can I use instead of WhatsApp?
Users have already started to test out other messaging platforms that offer more secure messaging facilities and also those which do not capture your data.
At the time of writing this article, Signal has risen to #1 on the iOS Top Charts. Signal has been endorsed by Edward Snowden, as well as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 7, 2021
Telegram is also another app that has seen an upsurge in downloads and increase in user accounts. Telegram however, still stores your Contact Info, Contacts and User ID whereas, Signal does not keep any personal data.
See a comparison of the data captured by WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram and Facebook Messenger apps.
FEATURES OF WhatsApp
- Group video calls for 8 participants
- Group Chat up to 256 participants
- Can broadcast messages to multiple contacts
- Disappearing Messages feature will remove message for individual contact of groups after 7 days.
- WhatsApp Status and WhatsApp Stories similar to Instagram and Twitter
- Can share files e.g. MS Word, PDF, TXT, PPT etc., up to 100MB.
- Photos, videos and audio files can be shared up to 16 MB
- Can share your live / current location
- Messages and data are backed up via cloud services like Google Drive and iCloud. These backups are not encrypted.
- End-to-End Encryption (E2E) is available for messages, video calls, voice calls, photos etc. between you and the recipient
FEATURES OF Messenger
- Instant messaging
- Photo / video sharing
- Extensive in-chat features
- 2 Factor Authentication available
- Group chats – users can chat with their Facebook friends and phone book contacts
- Ability to record voice messages
- Live video chat / video calling
- Can share current location
- Secret Messaging feature allows users to talk to one another in a completely private, encrypted and closed-off chat
FEATURES OF Telegram
- Supports groups with up to 200,000 members.
- Features include messaging bots, polls, quizzes and hashtags
- Two-Factor Verification
- Secret-Chat Feature.
- Self-destructing messages for photos or videos and in secret chats
- The size limit for sharing files is 1.5 GB
- End-2-End encryption is available only with secret chats
- Can allow for Groups BUT, no message broadcasting
- Support for Group Calls
- Disappearing messages feature
- Allows relay voice calls to its servers, identity is not shared, equivalent to using a VPN
- Signal also encrypts your metadata offering multiple levels of security
- Allows unique chat safety number that allows you to verify the security of your messages and calls with specific contacts