Changes in data protection regulations by WhatsApp have resulted in an exodus of users to competitors Telegram and Signal.
Users outside of Europe who do not accept the new terms before February 8th will be banned from the messaging app.
WhatsApp says the changes will help it integrate better with Facebook, but technology experts and privacy advocates have raised concerns about data security.
Here are four things you should know about the problem:
How is the new WhatsApp data protection?
Under the new regulations, WhatsApp reserves the right to share user data, including location and phone number, with parent company Facebook Inc and other apps of social networking giant Instagram and Messenger. Data exchange was previously optional, but will become mandatory after February 8th. Tech experts say the move is aimed at monetizing WhatsApp.
Why does it cause flight from users?
Many users are cautious as Facebook has a poor track record of handling user data.
Some privacy activists urged WhatsApp users on Twitter to switch to apps like Signal and Telegram, questioning the “accept our data theft or step out” step.
Pavel Durov, the Russian-born founder of Telegram, said, “People no longer want to trade their privacy for free services.”
What other competing apps benefit from it?
More than 100,000 users have installed Signal on Apple and Google app stores in the past two days, while Telegram had nearly 2.2 million downloads, according to data analytics firm Sensor Tower.
New installations of WhatsApp were down 11 percent in the first seven days of 2021 compared to the previous week, but that was still an estimated 10.5 million downloads worldwide, according to Sensor Tower.
Both Telegram and Signal are encrypted messaging apps that ensure better privacy. They do not allow outsiders or the platform itself to see the content of the messages.
What does WhatsApp do about it?
The company tried to reassure users by saying in a blog post that WhatsApp can’t see their private messages or hear their calls, and neither can Facebook.
“We don’t keep a log of who sends or calls any messages. We can’t see your shared location, and neither can Facebook, ”he added.
Location data and message content are end-to-end encrypted according to WhatsApp.
However, when using WhatsApp, other metadata such as call logs, location, financial information, etc. can also be shared.
“We’re giving businesses the ability to use Facebook’s secure hosting services to manage WhatsApp chats with their customers, answer questions, and send helpful information like proof of purchase,” WhatsApp said in the post.
“Whether you communicate with a company by phone, email, or WhatsApp, they can see what you say and may use that information for their own marketing purposes, including advertising on Facebook.”