Whatsapp Updates its Privacy Policy, Accept or Delete Account |The Readers Time

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.

The revised terms of service and privacy policy of WhatsApp offers further insight into how the messaging network can use user data and, more significantly, share it with Facebook, its parent company, in the future. Users have to accept this until February 8, 2021 in order to continue using the platform. After Whatsapp announced its revised privacy policy, Tesla CEO Elon Musk suggested the users to switch to the Signal App in a recent tweet. 

Why Whatsapp changed its privacy policy?

It is not unusual for WhatsApp to change its terms of service and privacy policy. The majority of software providers periodically upgrade their services. It is a common practice that the customer acknowledges the new requirements and policy to continue using these services. This time, on February 8, 2021, WhatsApp gives a deadline to accept the new policy or delete your account. 

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?

Even back in July, WhatsApp provided its users with an ‘opt-out’ option to share usage details. “If you are an existing user, you can choose not to share information about your WhatsApp account with Facebook to enhance the experience of Facebook ads and products,” the company said in the previous version of its privacy policy.

The older version of the Privacy Policy used the following lines to begin with: ‘Our DNA is coded to protect your privacy. Since we started WhatsApp, we have been trying to develop our services with a collection of clear principles of privacy in mind.’  These lines are taken away from the new privacy policy. 

How do these changes affect users?

The new privacy policy of WhatsApp states that certain third-party providers can collect information about what you or others share with each other when users rely on “third-party services or other Facebook Company Products that are integrated with our Services.” Examples of this sort of third-party integration involve using the in-app video player to play content from a third-party platform. And deleting your account may not secure your data.

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.

The privacy policy lacks clarification and fails to shed light on how data is being combined from Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram and to whom it is made available, he said.

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.

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