Do we leave or do we stay?
The recent WhatsApp saga is straight out of a romantic novel. Do you leave the love of your life behind, or do you stay and fight the fire? The surge in downloads of Telegram and Signal comes after WhatsApp, which boasts over two billion users, introduced controversial changes to its privacy conditions that will allow it to share more data with its parent company Facebook. WhatsApp users have been told that if they want to continue using the app, they need to accept the new terms and conditions by 8 February 2021 (which has recently been extended to later in the year)
Shock and horror! This update has left people feeling angry, confused and a bit frustrated. It’s like I said: It has the makings of a true love story. Unfortunately, there have been hundreds of thousands of breakups with the world’s leading messaging platform since this latest update.
It’s perfectly normal for apps to update their terms and conditions, services and websites – we see it all the time. However, what makes this update more controversial is that it’s been positioned almost as an ultimatum to users, resulting in in-depth scrutiny and questions around the extent of permissions you have to give.
Now this has caused a lot of panic – some of it justified, but some has been blown out of proportion. The confusion or panic can be justified in that data such as your location, cell number (which WhatsApp already has), signal strength, internet provider, time zone, mobile operator and more is requested. This may seem rather arbitrary and not as serious, but when combined with your Facebook data, it actually starts forming a picture of users’ behavior and online habits.
This information can be collected, analysed and packaged and used by advertisers to target people more effectively. So should you be concerned about these new policy updates? Can Facebook access your WhatsApp messages? Broadly speaking, the content of any WhatsApp message is encrypted and cannot be read by anyone else, especially not by Facebook simply to target advertisers.
Users are also concerned about the extent of information now available to advertisers for targeting. But bear in mind that advertisers are already using available data and information to target individuals online – whether it by via Google or Facebook. However, what most people forget is that WhatsApp is owned by Facebook. So if you have Facebook, your data is already out there.
The same is true for using the internet and any online activity – whether it be online shopping, browsing, filling in surveys, signing up for newsletters, researching your favourite product or brand – your digital footprint has been created and your information is available to just about anyone, if they just look hard enough.
As someone who works within the digital space, the digital era is an incredible time, filled with innovation, creativity and ideas that come to life – far beyond your wildest dreams. But in the same breath, it can also be a scary place because we have entered into the world of the unknown, of untapped information, and we are now seeing and experiencing a new paradigm that we never thought possible.
The truth is, the drive for digital and technological innovation isn’t going to stop. So unless you want to lock yourself up in a bunker and use snail mail or a pigeon delivery service, we are going to have to learn to research, understand the facts and make informed decisions about digital changes and how they play a role in our everyday lives.
Your information and data has been around for years. It’s just been in the fine print of the privacy policies that you’ve already accepted. The only difference is that it’s now moved from the fine print to the opening paragraph.
We are spoilt for choice when it comes to instant messaging providers, but there are two WhatsApp alternatives that have made news headlines, namely Telegram and Signal. You may have heard these two brands circling the conversation chute in the last few days, especially since Elon Musk put his stamp of approval on messaging app Signal. But before you jump ship, due diligence is certainly required. Nobody wants to jump into the next love affair, only to be left stranded and heartbroken!
Now for the big question: Are Telegram and Signal a better alternative to WhatsApp?
See our overview comparison of WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal. We suggest going through each item and understanding it fully before making your final decision. Please bear in mind that these comparisons may change at any time.
Credit: MyBroadband, IOL, IndiaToday
So in this digital age, how can we protect our privacy?
As previously stated, your data and privacy is being exposed on almost every digital platform or website you use. But there are things you can do to protect your privacy online:
- Don’t overshare on social media. Providing too much information makes it easy to obtain identifying information.
- If you don’t want your computer to save your browsing history, temporary internet files, or cookies, do your web surfing in private mode. But keep in mind, your ISP can still see your browsing history.
- A virtual private network (VPN) gives you online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection. VPNs mask your Internet Protocol (IP) address so your online actions are virtually untraceable.
- Make sure you use secure passwords and be careful where you click – not all links are ‘click-friendly.’
These changes do not apply to personal messages. Only WhatsApp for Business.
WhatsApp doesn’t share private messages or sensitive location data with Facebook, but some of the business conversation hosted with the social network might be readable and used for advertising.
Messages, hearing user calls: WhatsApp says it can’t read your messages “or hear your calls, and neither can Facebook.” It reiterates that WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted adding that they “will never weaken this security and we clearly label each chat so you know our commitment.”
Logs of who everyone is messaging or calling: WhatsApp says “we believe that keeping these records for two billion users would be both a privacy and security risk and we don’t do it.”
Shared location data: WhatsApp makes it clear it does see your shared location data and neither can Facebook. The post adds, “When you share your location with someone on WhatsApp, your location is protected by end-to-end encryption, which means no one can see your location except the people you share it with.”
On Sharing contacts with Facebook: WhatsApp says it does not share a user’s contacts with Facebook or other apps that Facebook offers.
Group privacy: It says that “group membership” is used “to deliver messages and to protect our service from spam and abuse.” The data is not shared with Facebook for ad purposes. Further, the chats on groups are also end-to-end encrypted.
Disappearing messages: WhatsApp also reminds users that for additional privacy they can go with disappearing messages, which will be deleted from the chat after you send them. Users have to individually turn on the feature in each personal and group chat. The messages disappear after seven days.
Downloading data: Users who are worried about data WhatsApp is collecting can download this from the app. Go straight to Settings>Account> Request Account Info and hit on request report. The report is generated in three days.
We’ll keep you updated with the latest news and information, so stay tuned to our website and social pages!