WhatsApp recently updated their privacy guidelines and have notified active members to read and accept the terms before the 8th of February 2021. But what do the new words mean?
There was once a time when WhatsApp was all the rage on social media. Don’t get me wrong; it still is, but for different reasons. When it started, WhatsApp was a subscription-based service that charged users every year to use the app. It then proceeded to offer the first year for free and then slowly phased out all in-app purchases. This was, of course, before the acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook. Since then, the journey of WhatsApp has been on a downward spiral.
WhatsApp valued one thing the most over everything else; privacy. Privacy formed WhatsApp’s User Policy’s crux for most of its formative years until Facebook acquired it. Data Protection, End-to-End Encryption, and Profile Safety remained a priority, and it duly delivered them to users, but times are fast changing. WhatsApp is slowly becoming the latest victim of “Facebook-isation”.
Used as a slang, Facebook-isation is essentially the process of apps, platforms, and services falling prey to the lengthy and invasive practices of Facebook. Facebook was the first central social media platform for the masses (Orkut was a colossal blunder, if I’m honest). It drew people in with its ease of connectivity and a host of other features. What started as a social wall soon became hubs of personal data, and before we knew it, almost everything we are is known to Facebook.
A data breach suit followed, most notably remembered by the countless lizard and robot memes about Mark Zuckerberg (let the poor guy live!). Since then, the case has been settled with Facebook committing to various measures for the next five years to protect user data and maintain privacy in the best way possible.
The Instagram Model
Instagram is also a classic case of an independent platform gone rogue. After its acquisition by Facebook, Instagram went through a drastic makeover rapidly, resulting in a host of changes, some not so pleasant. New users were given the comfort of using their Facebook accounts to register on Instagram. Cross sharing on multiple platforms, User integrations, Insights, and much more allowed more opportunities to use Instagram as a tool. Then, the “Facebook-isation” started.
So, what’s the bad news this time? Well, for starters, WhatsApp will collect all your data such as battery level, signal, network provider, ISP, and other hardware stats. This data will also be shared with Facebook. Your name and phone number are also included in the list. A unique metric is an identifier, tokens related to device-specific users (same account on different devices or multiple accounts on the same machine, etc.).
The second update to the policy is business-related. Business accounts on WhatsApp will have now have more power over managing their accounts and enterprises with the help of Facebook. Businesses can now outsource their communications and management to third parties, and that can leave a customer vulnerable to revealing personal data to a random entity. Data Usage is a grey area in this case. Businesses can also use Facebook offered services to manage and store their chats and data.
Data Never Goes Away
Lastly, they speak about storing WhatsApp data moving forward, which was never a thing until now. This also means that if and when you’d want to delete your account, merely deactivating your account from the app will do nada. Your chats and group info will still exist on your friends’ accounts and Facebook’s data centre. You will have quite a lot of tracking to do with your digital footprint to clean your WhatsApp presence. Facebook has subsequently announced that all this data will be stored on their servers in the US. It will be interesting to see how this plays out between countries that may consider this indirect surveillance of their citizens or even simple trade relations. India recently agreed to a strategic deal with the US against China, and this new policy might throw a spanner in the works in the long run.
Is My Data in Danger?