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Some think the messaging app will now force its users to hand over their personal data to Facebook, the company that owns WhatsApp.
That is not entirely true.
WhatsApp’s policies have changed aesthetically, not in a way that gives Facebook more data. The bottom line is that Facebook has been collecting a lot of information from what people do on WhatsApp.
The confusion is the result of Facebook’s messed up communications, distrust of the company, and the broken US data protection laws.
Here’s what has changed with WhatsApp and what’s not:
Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014, and since 2016, almost everyone using the messaging app has (often accidentally) shared information about their activities with Facebook.
Facebook knows the phone number in use, how often the app is opened, the screen resolution of the device, the estimated location from the internet connection, and more, as my colleague Kashmir Hill explained 5 ago. year.
Facebook uses this information to make sure WhatsApp is working properly and to help a shoe company show you an ad on Facebook.
Facebook cannot review the content of text messages or phone calls because WhatsApp communication is disturbed. Facebook also says that it does not keep a record of who is contacting in WhatsApp and that WhatsApp contacts are not shared with Facebook. (This wired article is also helpful.)
WhatsApp has a lot of positives. It’s easy to use and the communication within the app is secure. But yes, WhatsApp is Facebook, a company many people do not trust.
There are alternatives, including Signal and Telegram – both of which have attracted a large number of new users recently. The digital security group Electronic Frontier Foundation says Signal and WhatsApp are good options for most people. The Wall Street Journal has also reviewed the pros and cons of some popular messaging apps.
The reason WhatsApp recently notified app users of its revised privacy rules is that Facebook is trying to make WhatsApp a place to chat with airlines about missed flights, browse bags and checkout. fixtures.
WhatsApp policies have changed to reflect the possibility of commercial transactions involving the interoperability of Facebook apps – a handbag you browse in WhatsApp, for example, may appear later. in your Instagram app.
I also want to further explain the reasons for the misunderstandings.
First, this is a confusing mark of Facebook’s history when it comes to our personal data and is not careful with how the company or its partners use it. It’s no surprise that people assume that Facebook has changed WhatsApp’s policies in bloody ways.
Second, people have come to understand that privacy policies are confusing, and we really don’t have the right to force companies to collect less data.
“This is a problem with the nature of privacy law in the United States,” says Kash. “As long as they tell you they’re following a policy that you probably haven’t read, they can do whatever they want.”
That means digital services including WhatsApp offered us an impossible choice. We waive control of what happens to our personal information or we do not use the service. That’s it.
Solve other WhatsApp confusion
Another misconception is emerging around WhatsApp – and again, this is WhatsApp’s fault, not yours – that the app is currently removing an option for people to refuse sharing their WhatsApp data. with Facebook.
Not entirely true.
Facebook still will collect data from WhatsApp users, as I explained above, But the company won’t use data to “improve advertising and product experience,” such as making friend suggestions.
But that option in WhatsApp only existed for 30 days in 2016. It was a lifetime in digital years, and about four million Facebook data scandals before.
For anyone who started using WhatsApp back in 2016 – and that’s a lot of people – Facebook has been collecting a lot of information with no opt-out option.
“A lot of people didn’t know that until now,” Gennie Gebhart of the Electronic Frontier Foundation told me. And, she said, we are not to blame.
Understanding what happens with our digital data feels as if it requires advanced training in computer science and law. And Facebook, a company with loads of cash and a stock value of more than $ 700 billion, failed or couldn’t explain what’s going on in a way that everyone could grasp.
Before we go …
More digital news from the Capitol crowd: YouTube has blocked President Trump’s account from posting new videos for at least the next seven days, writes Dai Wakabayashi, my colleague. Like Facebook and Twitter, YouTube has cited the potential of false or offensive statements from Mr. Trump videos increasing the risk of violence surrounding the presidential handover.
There are still more digital explosions from the Capitol crowd: Gizmodo pointed out hundreds of users of social media Parler in the crowd that flooded the Capitol last week. It was able to do this because of Parler’s lax security, which allows researchers to download data including records of people’s posts and GPS coordinates.
Some people make good money online. Did there are many people: That’s true on YouTube and Instagram – and on OnlyFans, a site where people can charge others to access pornography. My colleague Gillian Friedman talked to women about their experiences as OnlyFans creators.
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