Sunday, February 25, 2024

People are crazy about Facebook’s WhatsApp privacy policies

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Indranil Mukherjee / Getty Images

Over the past week, nearly 2 billion people around the world who use WhatsApp, Facebook’s instant messaging service, were greeted by a giant pop-up when the app launched.

“WhatsApp is updating its terms and privacy policy,” he said.

Clicking on it will give you a 4,000 word message privacy policy, which states that WhatsApp now reserves the right to share data such as phone numbers, IP addresses and payments made through the app with Facebook and other Facebook-owned platforms like Instagram. It also states that if people are using WhatsApp to speak with companies that use Facebook’s hosting technology to handle these chats, those messages could be used by the company to target people with ads on Facebook.

Unless people agree to these new terms, they will be banned from WhatsApp on February 8.

Online, the response has been swift. “Use the signal”, tweeted Tesla CEO Elon Musk to his 42 million subscribers, referring to the open source WhatsApp alternative popular with people who deal with sensitive information like journalists and activists. “I use [Signal] every day and I’m not dead yet ” tweeted American whistleblower Edward Snowden. In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s media office and the country’s defense ministry have announced that they are abandon whatsapp after the policy changes, and opened a probe into the movement.

Signal has become the best free app on Google and Apple app stores in most countries of the world. More than 8,800,000 people downloaded Signal to iPhones and Android phones during the week of Jan. 4, down from just 246,000 people the week before, according to data analytics firm Sensor Tower. Telegram, another alternative to WhatsApp, said Tuesday that more than 25 million people had joined in the past 72 hours.

? Over 5 million people downloaded #Signal this weekend, after @elonmusk and @Snowden tweeted about it ? ?‍? #privacy #whatsapp Our report ?


“I was concerned about my privacy,” J. Paul, a Mumbai marketer who only wanted to be identified by the initial of his first name, told BuzzFeed News. “Facebook monetizes its products invasively for users.”

Besides Facebook itself, WhatsApp is Facebook’s largest and most popular service. In markets like Brazil and India, the application is the default way of communication for hundreds of millions of people. But so far Facebook, which paid $ 22 billion to acquire it in 2014, has kept it largely independent and hasn’t tried to make money with it. Now that is changing.

“We remain committed to the privacy and security of people’s private messages,” a WhatsApp spokesperson told BuzzFeed News, and proposed a link on a page the company posted earlier this week explaining the new policy. “The best way to maintain end-to-end encryption over the long term is to have a business model that protects people’s private communication.”

The page says WhatsApp believes messaging with businesses is different from messaging with friends and family, and breaks down what data the business might share with Facebook in the future.

The new privacy policy will allow Facebook, which made more than $ 21 billion in revenue in the last quarter of 2020 by targeting ads to people, use WhatsApp to make even more money. But that means trying to get the app’s large user base to fork out more data – and could risk sending a lot to competitors instead.

“If you’ve spent $ 22 billion to acquire something, sooner or later shareholders want you to monetize that asset,” New technology lawyer and online civil liberties activist Mishi Choudhary told BuzzFeed News. York.

WhatsApp, started by two former Yahoo employees Jan Koum and Brian Acton, originally charged people a dollar a year. After Facebook made the app free, the growth exploded. For the first few years after purchasing the app in 2014, Facebook largely left WhatsApp alone. But in 2018, he launched WhatsApp Business, which allows businesses to use WhatsApp to communicate with customers. For the first time, Facebook wanted WhatsApp to start generating revenue.

Over the past year, WhatsApp has added more features aimed at businesses, such as airline tickets and purchase receipts, catalogs, and Payments. WhatsApp said there are over 50 million businesses on the platform, and over 175 million people message a business on the app every day.

“They want WhatsApp to become a payment service and shopping portal, yet another aspect of your life that will be covered by Facebook’s data collection efforts,” Devdutta Mukhopadhyay, lawyer at the Internet Freedom Foundation, a non-profit organization that works for the protection of digital technology. freedoms, told BuzzFeed News. “That’s what their latest privacy policy changes are all about.”

“I don’t trust Facebook,” Paul said. He recently deactivated his Facebook account, although he still uses Instagram and WhatsApp. “I have to be there, but I don’t trust him,” he said.

Trust in WhatsApp has eroded since Facebook bought it. Koum defended the sale of the app to Facebook in 2014 blog post, stating that the company was not interested in people’s personal data. “If partnering with Facebook meant we had to change our values, we wouldn’t have done it,” he wrote. Two years later, however, WhatsApp ad that it would start sharing certain data, including phone numbers and the last time people used the service with Facebook – a move for which the European Union fined there 110 million euros.

Disinformation is swept away by the current backlash. Many did not realize that WhatsApp’s new privacy policy only applied to chats with businesses and not private chats with friends and family, and urged others to boycott the app.

“Honestly, I don’t think most people who are currently in the process of switching to Signal or Telegram have read the new privacy policy,” Mukhopadhyay said. “Regardless of what complex legal documents say, people’s experiences tell them that they can’t trust companies like Facebook with their data.”

In response, Facebook is launching a charm offensive. In India, which is the company’s largest market with over 400 million users, the company splashed the front pages of major national newspapers with full-page ads stating that it couldn’t see private messages. people or listen to their calls. “Respect for your privacy is encoded in our DNA,” said the WhatsApp announcement, echoing a line from Koum’s blog in 2014.

The best Facebook executives, like the Head of Instagram and Facebook head of virtual reality, tweeted in support of the app.

WhatsApp chief executive Will Cathcart also wrote a series of tweets on Friday, pointing out that the company couldn’t see people’s personal chats and that the new privacy policy applied to messages with businesses only.

“It is important for us to be clear that this update describes corporate communication and does not change WhatsApp’s data sharing practices with Facebook,” he wrote. “It has no impact on how people communicate privately with their friends or family, anywhere in the world.”

Cathcart did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.

Despite the outcry, ditching WhatsApp in countries like India could be difficult. Paul, the Mumbai marketer, said he would continue to use the app until he urged everyone he knows to switch to Signal.

“It’s not an easy sale,” he said, “because of the convenience of WhatsApp.”


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