WhatsApp forces data share with Facebook » Stuff

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There’s no question that tech corps around the world’s new currency is data. Personal data, in fact. It’s obvious that’s what Facebook as a company has increasingly pursued for years with the help of its three social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Today, Facebook is forcing WhatsApp users to share data with Facebook or face consequences…

It may sound like a badly written Taken 5 script, but WhatsApp’s ultimatum will push its 2 billion users off its platform completely if they do not agree to share some personal data with the service. An in-app alert greeted most users today (with more incoming, if you haven’t yet), detailing some sweeping changes in the WhatsApp terms of service. You’ll need to accept the newly designed privacy policy by 8 February 2021 or face losing access to the most popular chat app in the world. 

What it means for WhatsApp users

Rewind back to a simpler time: 2016. WhatsApp sent out a notice that users will have the option to opt-out of sharing data with Facebook as a once-off. We like to think it was a time in history when personal autonomy was important — at least you have a choice, right? Not in 2021, no siree. 

“Now, an updated privacy policy is changing that. Come next month, users will no longer have that choice,” ArsTechnica reports on the situation. 

Come 8 February, WhatsApp will automatically share the following info with its Facebook overlord: user phone numbers, your whole contact list (numbers and names), profile names and pictures, status message including when a user was last online, diagnostic data collected from app logs.

If you agree to the new privacy policy (and let’s be honest, many people won’t have a choice), you’ll agree to share a significant amount of data from your smartphone and personal chats with Facebook and its dysfunctional ‘family of companies’. 

“As part of the Facebook family of companies, WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, this family of companies,” the new privacy policy states. “We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings,” the policy reads.

Where to now?

This is an ultimatum in its purest form — users can choose to agree to the new terms, or delete WhatsApp and move to a different, more secure, messaging app. It’s surprisingly hard to get a whole social group and extended family to port to a whole new messaging system, so many people will give in and accept the terms just for convenience’s sake. 

If you’re happy sharing data with Facebook (you know, if you’re embedded within Facebook’s ecosystem already), the updated terms may not have a significant effect on your life and the way you share data. In this case, accepting the terms shouldn’t be much of an issue. 

But just so you know, there are many WhatsApp alternatives, most with better encryption and security features across the board. Don’t be bullied into using a service that harvests data from you for its own gain if you’re not interested in it.

 



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