In the currently hyper-aware landscape of the internet, with users becoming more aware and paranoid about how vulnerable their data is, major changes to popular platforms will always be met with a raised eyebrow.
WhatsApp’s latest update state that it will be sharing unspecified information with its parent company Facebook moving onwards. The general nature of this statement, combined with the lack of trust people hold towards said parent company, have been the main proponent of the general confusion and conspiracies. However, in a slew of statements released by WhatsApp’s own developers and higher-up, we have more context to bounce off of.
First of all, messages will still remain end-to-end encrypted, and thus unavailable to Facebook for exploitation. However, other information that is made available to WhatsApp, such as contact lists and usage data, might be free game for the former. The Apple Store has already specified that WhatsApp’s extraction of user data, voluntary as it is, may be linked to personal identity. However, WhatsApp’s head Will Cathcart has personally taken to Twitter in an attempt to assuage such fears.
Location data, another concern that users exhibited, will also not be available to either WhatsApp itself or Facebook. In a sense, anyways. While a user’s general location will be available for harvesting due to phone numbers and IP addresses, specific addresses are unavailable. Which, while being better, doesn’t evoke a sigh of relief as the general locations can very much be used by Facebook.
With WhatsApp’s intentions of peddling user data over to Facebook, the community fears the quick inclusion of targeted ads on a platform that’s mostly lauded for its lack of them. While Cathcart has specified that targeted ads are currently not coming to the platform, he didn’t rule out their inclusion in any certain terms.
We want to address some rumors and be 100% clear we continue to protect your private messages with end-to-end encryption. pic.twitter.com/6qDnzQ98MP
— WhatsApp (@WhatsApp) January 12, 2021
Facebook’s constant parade of controversy and problems is starting to leak over the rest of its properties as well. Already, third party apps such as Telegram and Signal (that latter of which was recommended by Elon Musk as the fiasco begun) are seeing surges in their userbases due to WhatsApp’s users jumping ship.
Then again, when you’re a parent company subject to an FTC lawsuit, in an astoundingly tone-deaf argument with Apple about their protection of user data, and are shamelessly breaking into niches occupied by smaller brands (Super as a competition to Cameo, for example), what else is to be expected. Ultimately, while nefarious they may not be, WhatsApp’s new terms will lead to user mistrust simply due to it’s unfortunate allegiances.
This post was written by Arooj Ahmed and was first posted to Digital Information World
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