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Privacy Wars: Facebook’s WhatsApp vs the whole World

Also, Apple vs Facebook over Privacy and Tracking

What is WhatsApp privacy policy debacle all about?

WhatsApp is by far one of the most used social media platform, which is now owned by Facebook. Almost everyone around the world have access to a WhatsApp account. WhatsApp is free to use, but what really matters is privacy. Privacy Policy is all about what data or information WhatsApp collects and how this might affect you. It also make sure to protect your privacy, like building up Services so delivered messages aren’t stored by WhatsApp and giving you full control over who you communicate with this Services. WhatsApp messages and calls are encrypted end to end, which means no one outside the chat, not even Whatsapp can read or listen to the encrypted information.

WhatsApp claims not to interfere between the chats, then what information does it actually collect? WhatsApp as to collect some data to operate, provide and improve there services which might benefit user deeds. Obviously, the first thing which Whatsapp collects is your personal phone number. If you need to utilize the WhatsApp service then you have to trust them by providing your phone number, no need to worry here, your information is safe. WhatsApp even collects your location, nowadays you can share your live location to the people using WhatsApp services. WhatsApp use IP addresses and other information like phone number area codes to estimate your general location.

Sometimes you can’t just blame the WhatsApp services, as any user can capture screenshots of your chats or messages or make recordings of your calls with them and send them to WhatsApp or anyone else platform. So, what can you do at that time? WhatsApp provides an option of user reports, you can report other users, if the user violates the privacy policy, or get indulge in sharing fake information.

To check more on Privacy Policy. Click here.

Can we trust WhatsApp after the new privacy changes, why did it battle most users all of a sudden?

WhatsApp during the end of January announced a news related to its new privacy policy. This news got rapid increase in traffic and attracted many attention. It was said that WhatsApp could share user data with Facebook, actually it was much concerned to those who used WhatsApp business account. The intention behind this was that WhatsApp could share some related recommendations to the user which they were interested into. WhatsApp services also provide Business service where you can sell or buy goods. When you message with a business account on WhatsApp, keep in mind that the content you share may be visible to several people using business account. In addition, some businesses might be working with third-party service providers (which may include Facebook) to help manage their communications with their customers.

So why did the news of new privacy policy changes bothered people around the globe? The main reason was user did not want WhatsApp to share its details in Facebook where third party service could see it. After few days of the news Whatsapp made it clear to all user that they wont be sharing the data unless emergency situation arises, the information would always remain encrypted. WhatsApp could only give access of sharing data with once having business account, WhatsApp does ask the permission to user before doing it. It is the user who have to decide it. New privacy policy was suppose to release on February 8 but got delayed to May 15th, it still remains unknown what Whatsapp is trying to pull out this time.

WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy so far has not got the attention it deserves, especially around the changes in how the platform now identifies location and differentiates business messages on Facebook. Some of the misinformation around WhatsApp’s new privacy policy claims that for users now sending a WhatsApp message and posting a Facebook message is the same thing, but this misunderstanding have to wait till May 15th when WhatsApp will release its new privacy policy. Thanks to Whatsapp, whose new policy news made millions of people worried, resulted them switch to Signal and Telegram to protect their data.

Alternative for WhatsApp in terms of Privacy

Owing to delay in WhatsApp’s new privacy policy draft, you might need an alternative just in case. Is there any better alternative which provides better user interface than WhatsApp? Yes, you are right there is a better alternative than WhatsApp, that is Telegram. Telegram is not a new software, it’s been there for a very long amount of time. You find a lot of features in Telegram, using Telegram you can reach milllions of people even if they aren’t in your contact list. WhatsApp required communication if they end user was from your contact list. So this is a valid point, but is there any good feature rather than communication. There are thousands of channels in Telegram where you can get information regarding various field, that includes Technology channels regarding Linux tips, Technical news, Hardware and Software information and many more. Not only this you can even download Movies, web series and anime. Telegram is not just an alternative for WhatsApp but also for Netflix. You pay and watch in Netflix, but you get almost all the movies, web series and anime in Telegram at free cost. What about the privacy offered by Telegram, so can you trust it?

Telegram is open source and free, anyone can check its source code, protocol and API. Telegram supports verifiable builds, which allow experts to independently verify that its code published on GitHub is the exact same code that is used to build the apps you download from App Store or Google Play . Telegram even provides secret chat feature. Secret chat provides much more security to your chat. Telegram strongly recommend using only Secret Chats in official or at least verifiable open-source apps for sensitive information, preferably with a self destruct timer. You can enable a self destruct timer, so the chat gets cleared within the timer period.

Another worth-mentioning alternative is the infamous Signal app. Signal is a cross-platform centralized encrypted messaging service developed by the Signal Technology Foundation and Signal Messenger LLC. Signal is an open source, supports end to end encryption, that keep your conversations secure with its enhanced protocols. Like all other social media, Signal app uses your internet connection to send text, documents, images, GIFs and videos. It also supports crystal-clear voice calls and video calls, across the world with no roaming charges. Signal proclaims there are no ads, no affiliate marketers, and no tracking in Signal. So you can focus on sharing the moments that matter with the people who matter to you without worrying about security. In the recent days Signal as sky rocketed the number of downloads, Signal as now registered more than 50 million downloads in just few days, thanks to baffling or rather scary changes in WhatsApp new privacy policy.

Apple vs Facebook: Privacy war

It is a head on collision of privacy terms, you should not miss this one, Apple vs Facebook, two big names in Technology world, both from the land of the free, USA. So what actually made this trillion dollar companies collide. The answer is obvious, Privacy. Many people have now looked down to Facebook after all the recent activities, first its data sharing of Whatsapp message, and now to keep track of user data in Apple iOS. We all know how cautious are Apple developers to provide data security to its end users. Apple developers and its CEO Tim Cook, were happy with the information related to Facebook’s tracking. Tim Cook believes that user should decide whether their data should be tracked or not. To see on other side Apple iPhone is incomplete without Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp which belongs to family of Facebook apps. Where Tim cook mocked Facebook about its tracking that infringes user privacy, in return Facebook developer, Mark Zuckerberg and Dan Levy, said Apple privacy is much about profit and competitive interest collector rather than data privacy that will help people.

So what steps were taken by Apple to come up this issue. Apple came up with new privacy policy and new feature where, its changes give users more control over their data and transparency into what is collected and tracked. With the coming iOS update, iPhone users will see a pop-up that explicitly says an app wants to track and share its data. App developers can use this pop-up to explain how user data will be used, you will see a notification while launch of any new app on your phone, explaining what the proposed third-party tracker is used for, and whether you want to approve or reject the tracking and sharing of your data, if in case user denies to keep been tracked. As a result Facebook will not be able to track iPhone users data, this irked Facebook developers.

Conclusion

Some People actually do care a lot about data privacy, but do they even read the lengthy privacy policies of the software they use, a few, maybe. Since the world is adopting more technology based solutions to every new problem, the war over data privacy and security are inevitable in the technology world. You might say, this is just a beginning as one company comes up to challenge the other in terms of how data of its users is being handled or managed. There might be different social media platforms in future that might provide better services to the user. The end user must make a right choice to choose the better one, obviously its gonna be difficult but you have keep moving forward with it. Clearly the market is very sensitive to privacy issues, rampant growth and wide-spread adoption of Signal/Threema like apps makes it quite obvious.

Manish Gehlot

I am a privacy, security, encryption and software freedom enthusiast. I am into VPNs, TLS security. Recently I also got into technical writings including guides.

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