“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”
– Edward Snowdon
- WhatsApp temporarily stores the media and messages of its users on its servers and this is done to increase the efficiency of delivery of additional forwarded messages. Additionally, it will also store undelivered messages for a period of 30 days, and post 30 days if the message is still undelivered it is deleted from the server.
- Sharing of information with its parent company, Facebook. The reason that has been stated by WhatsApp to do so is to “help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings”. The plethora of information that will be shared with Facebook includes: Account registration information, transaction data, Information how users interact, mobile device information, IP address related information.
- WhatsApp will stop identifying contacts in the app of users if those contacts have stopped using WhatsApp.
These changes need to be accepted by the users for them to continue using the application before 8 February, 2021 or the user cannot use the app any longer. Claiming that the company wants people to understand the principles and the facts regarding the new policy, this deadline has been extended to 15 May, 2021.
The above significant changes have created an uproar among privacy, cybersecurity and antitrust experts, and rightly so as they will drastically alter the privacy rights of an individual. The business model of the company along with its parent company, Facebook, is echoed in the policy changes of WhatsApp to offer deeper integrations across all of its products.
To systematically dismantle the new changes, the storage of data and the systematic sharing with Facebook is a move to monetise the personal data and also sensitive personal data (political views, biometric data, and private chats) of its users. This update is not optional, as the application will no longer be available to users who do not accept the policy. This is some form of coerced concede, not free and transparent. The company knows that its base is huge in social media worldwide, and adding such terms of conditions wherein it clearly states ‘their way or lose our service’ just projects its outlook to respecting privacy and digital rights of individuals. In India only WhatsApp has over 400 million users.
The ultimatums of the company stech over to sharing of personal data and sensitive personal data to Facebook, under the facade of “Improve business and small business efficiency”, “improving their services,” “making suggestions for you,” “personalizing features and content,” does not take long to deduce that the company, including Facebook, takes the information of its users merely as data to be monetized with no regard to individual privacy. Essentially, what Facebook can procure from all this information is to increase their targeted advertising, political profiling and commercial hegemony around the world with the use of user business and behavioural data, this is sharing of personal data and even sensitive personal data with corporate heads, and by extension with government and law enforcement agencies.
“May privacy be with you !!!”
Srishti Triparty is a research consultant with DEF and is a privacy and technology enthusiast.