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Thousands delete WhatsApp after new controversial privacy policy; ‘Use Signal’, says Elon Musk

Earlier this week, WhatsApp’s updated its terms of service and privacy policy shocking hundreds of thousands of its users across the globe as the company openly said that its will share use date with its parent company Facebook and if the users don’t accept the new terms, their accounts will be deleted.

Users have till February 8, 2021 to accept these in order to continue using the platform.

 

The new policy miffed WhatsApp users and triggered a wave of social media outrage resulting in people deleting (or planning of deleting) WhatsApp and switching to ‘Signal’ or ‘Telegram’, other such open source apps that offer more encryption.

Infact, Signal is seeing a wave of new users after Tesla CEO Elon Musk told his Twitter followers to use the service. 

The flood of sign-ups on Thursday briefly caused Signal to delay sending out the verification codes needed to activate new user accounts. Nevertheless, the nonprofit behind the app said it’s ecstatic about the surge in activity. 

Important policy changes

While comparing the older version of the privacy policy with the latest one, users noticed that the following lines from it “Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA. Since we started WhatsApp, we’ve aspired to build our Services with a set of strong privacy principles in mind” no longer exist in the new policy.

Although, WhatsApp still claims it is end-to-end encrypted, which means your messages are not seen by anyone, but the same doesn’t fit with the new policy which openly accepts sharing data with Facebook.

WhatsApp’s new privacy policy notes that 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.” Examples of this kind of third-party integration include using the in-app video player to play content from a third-party platform.

WhatsApp explains that when a user relies on this, 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.

Remember when you use Google Drive or iCloud to backup your chats, these services are in effect getting access to your messages. Technically nothing has changed, except that WhatsApp is elaborating further what it means for data sharing when users rely on these third-party integrations.

It also clarifies that 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.” Given that WhatsApp has integration now with features like Rooms on Facebook, this clarification might be needed for many users.

Some examples given of WhatsApp-Facebook integration are the ability to pay for products on WhatsApp using Facebook Pay, which is available in the US.

What sort of hardware information is WhatsApp collecting?

WhatsApp says it is collecting 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 mentioned in the previous policy.

There are also updates on deleting a WhatsApp account. What does it say?

The new privacy policy highlights that if someone only deletes the WhatsApp app from their device without using the in-app delete my account feature, then that user’s information will remain stored with the platform. So just deleting the app from your phone won’t be enough. 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.”

What about data location and storage?

WhatsApp also clearly mentions in the privacy policy that it uses Facebook’s global infrastructure and data centers, including those in the United States to store user data. This was not explicitly mentioned in the previous policy. It also states that 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.”

WhatsApp’s new policy states that 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).”

What does the privacy policy say about businesses interacting with users?

WhatsApp says that any businesses that users interact with may provide the platform with information as well. 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.”

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