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January 13, 2021

WhatsApp: what happens now?


January 13, 2021

The Telegram and Signal messaging apps have recorded a rapid rise in demand. This comes days after their major rival WhatsApp publicized an update on their terms of service. The update on TOS has resulted in some divisive critique from users of social media.

The company laid out the new terms on January 6, 2021. Its new TOS has asked users to allow Facebook, Inc and its subsidiaries to collect various WhatsApp user data types. In simple terms, the company will collect data such as location and phone number.

Several privacy activists have posted their doubts on the company’s directive to the users to either allow the app to access their data or switch to other platforms. Henceforth, activists have recommended that WhatsApp users should consider adjusting to alternative apps like Telegram and Signal.

On January 7, 2021, Signal recorded a sudden increase in the number of users. The upsurge occurred after Elon Musk endorsed the use of the app as a WhatsApp alternative. Elon is the CEO and product architect of Tesla, Inc.

Reports indicate that over 100,000 users installed the Signal App across application stores such as Google and Apple in two days. On the other hand, the Sensor Tower data analytics suggest that Telegram recorded around 2.2 million downloads in the same period.

Further analyses indicate that New Installation of WhatsApp declined by 11 percent in the first week of 2021 if you compare it to the previous week. Still, WhatsApp recorded an average of 10.5 million downloads worldwide.

WhatsApp updated its privacy policies and instructed its users to accept the new service terms by February 8, 2021. The new privacy policy explains how WhatsApp user data could impact production for businesses that interact with the target audience on such platforms.

It also offers a detailed report on why it is crucial to integrate WhatsApp with Facebook. Here are some crucial factors that you must understand in regards to the new WhatsApp updates.

WhatsApp will not share its users’ messages with Facebook. The new terms of service will not alter the way the app handles personal messages. In other words, WhatsApp messages will still be end-to-end encrypted. Thus, no third party will get access to your private WhatsApp messages.

The updated privacy policy states that the app will not alter its data-sharing policies with Facebook. It will not change how users communicate privately with family and friends. The app will remain committed to safeguarding its users’ privacy.

The data exchange between the app will apply for specific data types. According to the privacy policy statement, data exchange between WhatsApp and Facebook will not occur immediately. In fact, users in the European Union are free to opt-out from the option of data-sharing between Facebook and WhatsApp.

Other countries must stick to the new WhatsApp policies. Some of the essential data that WhatsApp will share with Facebook and its subsidiaries include the IP address, mobile device information and data on the user’s interaction with other users, including business users.

It will also share service-related data, transaction data since it allows payment in countries such as India, and account registration data, including the phone number. The app will also collect and record more data on the device at the hardware level.

Several benefits apply for the purpose of integrating Facebook and WhatsApp. According to the updated privacy policy, it would be best to share data between the two platforms to improve usability, security, and stop spam posts. Spam posts have been a major challenge to the previous terms of service.

Users should look at the new policies as a supplementary indication of WhatsApp integration into Facebook Inc. In 2019, CEO Mark Zuckerberg publicized his ambitions to cross-integrate WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger, naming it as interoperability. For instance, the company is seeking to integrate Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct Messages. Generally, Facebook is working on developing additional features for WhatsApp; like they recently introduced the Rooms feature.

Most users would love to know if WhatsApp will allow its users’ data to run ads. WhatsApp has not updated any ads yet. The plans it intended to implement seem to be slowing down. You should not be worried about the app using your personal chats to run ads since WhatsApp message features privacy encryption.

The intention of extending data sharing between Facebook and WhatsApp will be to improve the users’ ad experience across all their products.

According to the updated privacy policy, WhatsApp will not store messages. The company’s servers will delete the messages once it delivers them. It will only store messages that do not get to the intended destination immediately.

In such a case, the app will store the message in its server, which features privacy encryption for up to 30 days. If the message does not get to the intended destination within 30 days, the server will delete it automatically.

The updated privacy policy elucidates how independent companies can access data from their target audience once they interact with them through WhatsApp. It explains further that the content it accesses will be available to particular people in the company.

WhatsApp has recorded more than 50 million users operating business accounts. Thus, the company seeks to establish a potential monetization model in this niche. According to the new policy, WhatsApp will enable some businesses to work with third-party service providers such as Facebook to manage their customer communication strategy.

For that reason, WhatsApp suggests that customers must learn to research how businesses they trade with handle users’ information. Alternatively, WhatsApp users can consider contacting the business directly regarding privacy policies.

Users must understand that upgrading to the new terms of service is a must for all users. Accepting the new terms of service is the standard practice for all WhatsApp software. The company has asked users who are unwilling to switch to the updated TOS to shift to other services. Research indicates that most WhatsApp users are opting for this option.

In any case, the likely impacts of the new terms of service on WhatsApp users explain why platforms such as Signal have gained popularity recently.

Critics have explained that the Signal App is not directly responsible for the multiplication of stock prices for Signal Advance in the past few days. According to Elon Musk, most of his followers have switched to the use of the Signal messaging app. Nevertheless, his preposition did not impact the unrelated stock purchases.

It would be best to mention that something similar happened to companies such as Twitter and Zoom video in the past. WhatsApp should consider strategizing on how they can solve the challenge at hand.

They must formulate a plan to help re-develop trust among their users by maintaining top-notch privacy policies. Although integrating Facebook and WhatsApp could attract several benefits, it must not violate privacy policies that users feel are right for them.

For that reason, the company should consider conducting extensive research on the impact of the new terms of service on its users before stepping forward to implementing further policies. This step will help solve the migration trend that is happening to WhatsApp.

The writer is Director of the Centre for Information and Communication Technology at IBA. 

Twitter: @imranbatada