WhatsApp will let businesses collect data from your conversations with them on the platform. Your one-to-one and group chats/ calls still remain as encrypted and secure as ever, the Facebook-owned app has clarified.
What data does WhatsApp collect?
|Data that WhatsApp collects||Data that WhatsApp does not collect|
|Phone number||One-on-one chat and call info|
|Device ID||Group chat and call info|
|Location||Location shared with other WhatsApp users|
|Financial data||Downloadable account info|
|Product interaction||Status info|
|Other user content|
The data that WhatsApp collects is shared with other Facebook-owned properties, such as Instagram, Facebook, Messenger, etc. to show targeted ads and to improve the social media company’s overall services.
What this means is that the company can not only share all the conversations you have with a third-party service provider that, for example, can parse through the chat logs to see what you buy, transaction value, when you buy certain products the most, etc. This information can then be used to create targeted Facebook ads to drive sales for the business. It’s a cause for concern for anyone, but whether these potential targeted ads (which Facebook is already riddled with) are enough to make you quit WhatsApp altogether is a personal choice.
WhatsApp has clarified that businesses operating on its platform can even use Facebook infrastructure to manage their chats with consumers on the world’s most popular messaging app. The company also says that it will clearly label conversations with businesses that use Facebook’s hosting infrastructure.
What does all this mean for you?
What can you do?
Should you move to Signal?
However, compared to the 400 million+ users of WhatsApp, Signal only has 3.9 million in India. Of these 3.9 million, as many as 2.3 million downloaded the app since the former’s policy change. Considering these numbers, the network effect does tilt the scales in favour of the Facebook-owned app.
Also read: What is Signal, and how to use it
Now, Signal does have several features that you won’t find on WhatsApp, most of them aimed at ensuring the privacy of user data. These include the option to disable screenshots within the app, Incognito Keyboard, the ability to blur the faces of people in photos you send in chats, hiding your IP address while making calls (Call Relay), etc. On the other hand, chat stickers, Status updates, and Last Seen are some of the things that the average WhatsApp user is habituated to by now, and something Signal has no replacement for at the moment.
Can the government block these policy changes?
The government can block this move by WhatsApp in the interest of user data security and privacy. The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has already urged Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to stop Facebook from implementing this policy.
The industry body has said, “all kinds of personal data, payment transactions, contacts, location and other vital information of a person who is using WhatsApp will be acquired by it and can be used for any purpose by WhatsApp” and asked the government to either block the policy change or ban the app as well as its parent company altogether.
In Hong Kong, the privacy watchdog has asked Facebook to delay the February 8th deadline, while Turkey has suspended the move altogether and opened an investigation into the messaging app and its parent company regarding data collection practices.