The discussion around WhatsApp’s policy updates isn’t going to die down easily. Even though Facebook’s intentions were crystal clear from the moment it acquired WhatsApp, it was only a matter of time when Zuckerberg-led social media platform formally announced its plans to complete the transition.
That said, ever after WhatsApp’s no-way-out policies were enforced upon the users leaving them with little choice, the platform itself became the mode of spreading hunky-dory stories of the aftermath of the situation. Probably, this is when WhatsApp realized the impact of misinformation and fake news being spread via the platform and decided to come out to counter the rumours.
In a Tweet, WhatsApp has tried to assure users that it wants users to “be 100% clear we continue to protect your private messages with end-to-end encryption.”
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/6qDnzQ98MPJanuary 12, 2021
But it doesn’t look as straightforward as it is!
An FAQ page has also finally been updated with details around the new policies that the company has introduced. With an intent to re-establish the fact that WhatsApp protects and keeps your private messages secured, the company has stated that neither Facebook nor WhatsApp can hear the calls made using the platform, nor does it keep a log of calls or messages.
It has also stated that WhatsApp or Facebook cannot see the shared location and states that “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.”
WhatsApp also failed to clarify that it still collects your location information although you use their services or not. Their policy further reads “Even if you do not use our location-related features, we use IP addresses and other information like phone number area codes to estimate your general location (e.g., city and country). We also use your location information for diagnostics and troubleshooting purposes.”
It further states that the groups you’ve created remain private and end-to-end encrypted with an assurance that the content is not shared with Facebook nor is it seen by anyone. However, an Internet security researcher has revealed that WhatsApp group chat invite links, user profiles and other data have gone public and were only removed once the news broke out. A similar incident was reported in February last year.
Your @WhatsApp groups may not be as secure as you think they are. WhatsApp Group Chat Invite Links, User Profiles Made Public Again on @Google Again. Story – https://t.co/GK2KrCtm8J#Infosec #Privacy #Whatsapp #infosecurity #CyberSecurity #GDPR #DataSecurity #dataprotection pic.twitter.com/7PvLYuM9xDJanuary 10, 2021
Is it too late already?
While Facebook has clearly spelt out that it is going to collect a truckload of data using its different services, let us be clear it is not the only company to do so and will not be the last one as well. Google probably knows more about you that you can even imagine, however, the matter of concern here is the fact that Facebook is hoarding over 70% of information that it is allowed to, more than any other application and is closely followed by Instagram. Hence, one can expect WhatsApp to follow suit.
The public outcry is based on the fact that Facebook has not left users with a choice. Either you agree with the terms and conditions or you quit. Simple. And secondly, these new policies are in stark contrast with the basic idea of WhatsApp when it started.
Also, while WhatsApp claims that it is not reading your messages as Facebook has always claimed that it never “listens” using your phone’s mic, however, there are various examples where users have reported otherwise. Here is another example that can create enough doubts in anyone’s mind.
This user claims that even though his friend never searched for a hotel in the city he was supposed to travel as his company had done the travel arrangement and the only place he announced about his travel plan was in his friends’ group and still got an advertisement from a hotel company in the destination city. So much coincidence?
It is not clear how much these new FAQs and clarifications from WhatsApp are going to help the company as its competitors like Signal and Telegram have already become the top downloaded apps recently.