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What Is WhatsApp’s New Privacy Policy & Why You Should Be Concerned?

Once upon a time, WhatsApp privacy policy was: “Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA.” However, its no longer the case.

Once upon a time, WhatsApp privacy policy was: “Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA.” However, its no longer the case. The Facebook-owned messaging application has updated terms of service and privacy policy and it gives more insight into how the messaging platform will use user data and, more importantly, share it with its parent company Facebook going forward. In order to continue using the platform, users have till February 8, 2021 to accept these.

What’s new about the updated policies?

When users rely on “third-party services or other Facebook Company Products that are integrated with our Services, those third-party services may receive information about what you or others share with them”, says WhatsApp’s new privacy policy. Using the in-app video player to play content from a third-party platform is an example of how this kind of third-party integration works.

Information such as IP address and the fact that you are a WhatsApp user, may be provided to the third-party in question or to another Facebook company product when you opt to sign up for the new policies, WhatsApp explains.

When someone is using “third-party services or other Facebook Company Products, their own terms and privacy policies will govern your use of those services and products, it further clarifies. This clarification might be needed for many users given that WhatsApp has integration now with features like Rooms on Facebook.

The popular messaging app has also explained  in great detail how they work with Facebook and its group of companies, including the kind of information which is exchanged. This includes information around “improving infrastructure and delivery systems,” safety and security around Facebook products, service experiences such as making suggestions for users, personalised content around purchases and transactions.

Finally it also mentions that the information exchange will include to improve “relevant offers and ads across the Facebook Company Products.”

Citing some examples of WhatsApp-Facebook integration, the app allows the ability to pay for products on WhatsApp using Facebook Pay, which is available in the US.

Hardware Information: Isn’t this too much? 

The Facebook-owned messaging app says now it will new information around from your device such as “battery level, signal strength, app version, browser information, mobile network, connection information (including phone number, mobile operator or ISP), language and time zone, IP address, device operations information, and identifiers (including identifiers unique to Facebook Company Products associated with the same device or account).” These were not entioned in the app’s earlier policies.

What if I delete the app?

Highlighting that if someone only deletes the WhatsApp app from their device without using the in-app delete my account feature, WhatsApp says that user’s information will remain stored with the platform in such case. It adds that “when you delete your account, it does not affect your information related to the groups you created or the information other users have relating to you, such as their copy of the messages you sent them.”

Data Storage and Location

It uses Facebook’s global infrastructure and data centers, including those in the United States to store user data, the app has clealy mentioned. This was not explicitly mentioned in the previous policy. The data in some cases will be transferred to the United States or other parts where Facebook’s affiliate companies are based, adding that “these transfers are necessary to provide the global Services set forth in our Terms”. it further states.

Even if a user does not use their location-relation features, they collect “IP addresses and other information like phone number area codes to estimate your general location (city, country)”, the policy states.

About Businesses Interacting With Users

Any businesses that users interact with may provide the platform with information as well, the policy has stated. The policy further explains content shared with a business on WhatsApp will be visible to “several people in that business.”

It also states that some “businesses might be working with third-party service providers (which may include Facebook) to help manage their communications with their customers.”

WhatsApp, in order to understand how the business is handling the information you share with them, recommends that users read the “business’ privacy policy or contact the business directly.”

Payments Data

Since WhatsApp has rolled out payments in India and other countries, it has also expanded this part of privacy policy. It says that if you use their payments services they will “process additional information about you, including payment account and transaction information.” However, WhatsApp Payments in India has its own dedicated privacy policy.

In simple terms-

With these new policies-

  1. You grant WhatsApp a royalty-free, transferable license to use, reproduce and derive works from data you upload, send, etc.
  2. Information about you such as IP, Logs, Device information will be collected and may be shared with third party (and/or) Facebook and once shared their own privacy policies and terms will govern those data of users.
  3. WhatsApp receives and shares information from FB & co. and use it to understand customize and market their products and services, etc.
  4. These updates in the terms and privacy policy of WhatsApp makes it even worse than they were before. The data of individual users and people in their contacts has been shared with n number of 3rd parties and Facebook and its services.
  5. Sharing this data with 3rd party and FB services is already worse and what makes it even worse is that once shared the respective companies can handle the data in whatever means, without notifying the user about their Privacy Policy.

Alternatives to WhatsApp

After the platform laid out new policies, many users are considering to quit WhatsApp and join other alternatives which are safe and secure in regards to their privacy policies. Here are some of them-

  1. Signal:

Signal is free, has strong encryption, and works on all mobile platforms. Like most other messaging apps, Signal is really simple to use. It also offers voice and video calling, so you won’t miss WhatsApp. Signal includes desktop installation files so you can use the app on your computer as well as your cell phone.

Every message is encrypted, so only the sender and receiver can read them. Messages are completely unreadable to hackers. Signal uses open-source encryption, which allows experts to test it and find bugs. This makes the app even more secure.

Users can choose to let messages disappear by setting a time interval for automatic deletion. This guarantees privacy, even if someone else has the access to your phone.

Signal doesn’t have animated emojis. However, you can import your device’s emojis into the app

2. Threema

Threema promises complete privacy. Your contact lists and group information are stored solely on your phone, not in the app. Messages are deleted as soon as they’ve been delivered. Additionally, you can connect to people using an 8-digit Threema ID instead of a phone number, further protecting your privacy. You can verify contacts with unique QR codes.

Threema provides end-to-end encryption for all message types, including texts, voice calls, shared files, and group chats. It even encrypts your status messages so no-one can keep track of what you post. Messages can be read only by the sender and the intended recipient.

You can securely use Threema in-browser. Like WhatsApp, the app offers formatting features, as well as sending locations and files. Unlike WhatsApp, users can create polls and leave “like” feedback on individual messages. You can even hide particular chats and password-protect them.

Threema is based in Switzerland, which is known for its pro-privacy laws. However, Threema is a paid app.

3. Telegram

With more than 200 million active users, Telegram is a popular alternative to WhatsApp. The cloud-based app works across multiple platforms. Similar to WhatsApp, it uses a double-tick system to see when someone received a message.

The app features default end-to-end encryption for voice calls, ensuring that no-one can ever listen in on your calls. However, encryption for messages needs to be manually turned on to prevent storage.

Like Signal, Telegram offers the ability to automatically delete a message after a certain time. It also supports multimedia file sharing.

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