is WhatsApp respecting your privacy?
4 min read

is WhatsApp respecting your privacy?

is WhatsApp really what it claims to be?
is WhatsApp respecting your privacy?

TL;DR No, It isn't!

This article is closely observing the whole story around the new WhatsApp Privacy Policy and it is accordingly updated. We are trying our best to log every bit of information we can find about the new update. This article contains links to 3rd Party videos which are mentioned for the sole purpose of providing better understanding about the matter.

Let's take a look at the whole whatsapp thing once again. Over the last two weeks, A WhatsApp Privacy Policy update which was originally to go in effect on Feb 08 but now has been postponed to sometime in May 2021 has gathered attention from a big chunk of whatsapp users and privacy advocates. While it is obviously a thing to be concerned if you care about your privacy and personal information, There seems to be a lot of misinformation being circulated around what happens after this new privacy policy comes in effect.

Just to be clear, All (or most of it anyway) happened back in 2016 when whatsapp offered a one-time opt-out to people not wanting their info to be shared between whatsapp and facebook. That one change was the grounds of How & Why whatsapp shares user metadata with facebook (for personalizing experiences Duh!). Most of us chose to opt out of the data sharing but then, in a later update the aforesaid option to opt-out was removed from whatsapp and all new installs of whatsapp made it mandatory to share data between facebook and whatsapp. All of that may have been okay. but, given all the facebook privacy fiasco recently, everyone obviously got concerned when they received a full-screen pop up telling them that whatsapp is making things more transparent as to how they share info with facebook.

Now, no matter what you do (or did in past) at this point, the ultimate truth is that your metadata is already being shared between whatsapp and facebook. This includes (but not limited to) Profile Name, Profile Picture, IP Address, Device Battery Level, Device Signal Strength (Wifi and Cellular), App Version, Browser Information, Cellular Provider Information (Operator Name, Mobile Number), Internet Service Provider, Language, Time Zone, Device Usage and Operation Information, Device ID etc, All of this information is then processed and correlated with information being sent by other facebook products (Instagram/Messenger/Facebook app/Oculus apps etc) and used for making your experience more personalized by the means of linking this information together to better serve relevant recommended content, serving more interest specific content, Better serving more targeted ads and sharing data with partners for profit.

Here is a Fantastic video explainer from Beebom

Video: Beebom.com

What does this mean?

Basically, You're at the mercy of a corporate, who, by the way, are already very greedy to gather every bit of data about you that they possibly can, to preserve your security online. While there may be legitimate use cases for information sharing online, it doesn't have to be compulsory for everyone to do so. Forcing users to mandatorily share their information with others and offering no way to opt out of it gives us an idea of the intention behind mandating such information sharing. The given policy is not compliant to GDPR and hence it is not coming in power in the EU region.

Rumours!

There have been all sorts of rumour trains going on exaggerating the issues to a whole new level. While it is clear that the information being shared is already way too much, Some have decided to far-fetch it to a very dramatic level. for example, multiple sources claim that the private chats between users will now be used as a data point and the chat data will be used for ad targeting. This isn't fully true. while this may be the case with the so called "Business Accounts", chatting with which is totally optional I may add. The person to person chats still remain encrypted for the time being. This doesn't blow everything in the face immediately but te data already being shared between facebook and whatsapp is too scary and it is high time we take steps to take our privacy under control. A Good explanation could be found in this video

Link to The Friday Checkout by Tech Altar Explaining implications of the new WhatsApp privacy Policy

What are my Options?

Basically, if you want to keep your information from leaking any more than it already has, You have to call it quits to the entire facebook product line. Which includes Facebook, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Oculus etc. While I don't have an alternative to each and every one of these apps, We do have a very privacy respecting alternative to whatsapp. The app is called Signal and it is operated by a Not-for-Profit organization. Signal was founded by one of the founders of WhatsApp. They have a lot to promise on the table. Signal operates on a donations model and they promise they won't share or sell your data with any 3rd Party. Their platform offers a unique experience much closer to whatsapp and end-to-end encrypted chats.
They have mobile apps and desktop apps which work fantastically together. If you'd like to try out signal for yourself, You can visit https://signal.org/install on your phone and you'll be taken to your respective app store.

Disclaimer:

This article is in no way sponsored by anyone. I personally use signal (and telegram) on the daily. Given that I'm a privacy concerned person myself, I had quit whatsapp long ago. I have been using telegram and signal for over 2 years at this point.