WhatsApp was developed in 2009 as a free, cross-platform messaging app. Four years later, it gained over 400 million monthly active users. In 2014, Facebook purchased the site, and the way it collected user data from WhatsApp gradually changed. With the new policy change, the social networking business is now demonstrating a ‘take it or leave it’ approach to WhatsApp users.
What has changed in the new policy?
To begin with, WhatsApp remains encrypted end-to-end, which means that your messages are secure. WhatsApp presents three new updates: how the app handles your data, how businesses can use Facebook hosted services to store and manage their Whatsapp chats, and how Facebook’s other products will be more incorporated with Whatsapp.
What user’s data will it collect?
The platform will be able to share your personal data with its mother company Facebook and third-party apps. Status, battery level, browsing information, whether a user is online, group name and icons, duration of activities in the platform, mobile network, connection information (including phone number, mobile operator or IPS), IP address, language and time zone, identifiers (including identifiers unique to Facebook Company products associated with same device or account), all these information will be accessible by Whatsapp. But the new policy suggests an increasing reliance on other Facebook products.
Other than that, data from the new payment feature, including processing methods, transactions and shipment data will be collected by the platform. Place, device type, operating system, battery level and browser data will also be collected and shared.
How was it before?
How do these changes affect users?
According to Apar Gupta, executive director of the Internet Freedom Foundation, a digital freedom organization, the modified WhatsApp terms will assist Facebook and linked third-party apps to misuse user data for commercial benefit, including personal data, infringing user privacy.
“There is a lack of independent third-party assessment with regard to what and how much data is being used,” Gupta explained.
Personal data may also result in propaganda and hate messages being micro-targeted via Facebook, he added.
A judicial review is likely to help users find answers to concerns about the data collecting practice of Facebook, Gupta noted. Facebook has not yet addressed questions about its practice from the Joint Parliamentary Committee, making it difficult to decide where the data sharing issue stands. The absence of a data security committee in India also deepens the problem further.