WhatsApp Privacy Issue | UPSC
How private is WhatsApp?
WHY IN NEWS:
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : 3 : Privacy : Information and Communication
- WhatsApp on Tuesday had to clarify yet again that the policy changes nothing for those messaging friends and family.
- The latest clarification brings in what seems like a differentiation between “messages with friends or family” and “messages with a business”.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
- Neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can “see your private messages or hear your calls”.
- WhatsApp does not keep logs of who anyone is messaging or calling, because it considers a data dump of this kind a “privacy and security risk”.
- WhatsApp cannot see a location you have shared with a friend as that too is protected by end-to-end encryption.
- WhatsApp does not share a user’s contacts with Facebook, or any other app.
- So, if you are a member of an office, RWA or school group, there is nothing to worry as nothing changes for you.
HOW ARE BUSINESS MESSAGES DIFFERENT?
- The interplay between WhatsApp and Facebook, its parent company, becomes more visible when it comes to messages to business, where the new privacy changes have been applied.
- This will be for managing WhatsApp chats with their customers, answer questions, and send helpful information like purchase receipts.
- And “whether you communicate with a business by phone, email, or WhatsApp, it can see what you’re saying and may use that information for its own marketing purposes.
- This may be included while advertising on Facebook.
- But, WhatsApp says it will “clearly label conversations with businesses that are choosing to use hosting services from Facebook”.
- These labels are already visible when you are communicating with a business, and users will now need to decide whether they want to be in a conversation, the details of which could be used to show them targeted ads.
- Using the Shops features on WhatsApp could also open up your preferences for targeted ads on other Facebook products such as Instagram.
ADVERTISEMENT BASED ON PREFERENCE
- WhatsApp has been gradually activating across many markets, will ultimately results in advertisements based on preferences you have shown to the business.
- This could be used to show you ads on Facebook platforms.
- If you are the business owner, you could use some of the insights to run ads targeting your customers on Facebook and other services.
WHAT CHANGES FOR YOU IN THESE SCENARIOS?
- IF YOU ARE ON FACEBOOK : Nothing changes when it comes to personal chats.
- IF YOU ARE NOT : Nothing changes for you as a WhatsApp user, as you cannot be shown ads on Facebook.
- IF YOU HAVE A LARGE FOLLOWING : WhatsApp remains a secure platform for all your personal conversations with individuals and groups.
- OR IF YOU DO NOT : Your regular WhatsApp conversations remain safe and end-to-end encrypted.
WHICH COUNTRIES HAVE A DIFFERENT POLICY?
- While there is data sharing with Facebook even in the European Union, users there get more control.
- According to WhatsApp’s own policy for EU, consumers have “the right to access, rectify, port, and erase your information, as well as the right to restrict and object to certain processing of your information.”
- This option is not available elsewhere.
- Consumers in the EU can even withdraw their consent to WhatsApp for processing of data, thanks to GDPR.
- The social network had told these regulators it technically wasn’t possible to combine WhatsApp data with its other services.
WHY DOESN’T INDIA GET SUCH A SETTING WITH EXTENSIVE CONTROLS?
- India lacks a regulatory authority.
- The regulatory heat makes the timing of this update interesting.
- In the US, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a lawsuit against Facebook over antitrust, anti-competitive policies.
- It has also put Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram under the scanner.
- These two apps have helped Facebook dominate the social media and messaging space in the last five years.
- If the FTC wins its cases, it wants Facebook to sell off both WhatsApp and Instagram, which could prove disastrous for the company.
SHOULD I STAY ON WHATSAPP OR MIGRATE?
- There is no need to move out of WhatsApp if you use it primarily to communicate with friends and family.
- Signal is topping the charts on Apple’s App Store and it appears to be driven by downloads from India.
- Signal too offers end-to-end encryption (E2E), similar to WhatsApp, but it is run by a non-profit co-founded by WhatsApp founder Brian Acton.
- Signal’s E2E protocol is actually used by WhatsApp.
- It has a number of features that WhatsApp offers, but some such as group video calling are still in the beta stage.
- Another encrypted messaging app is Telegram, created by Russian brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov, with features similar to WhatsApp.
SOURCES: IE | WhatsApp Privacy Issue | UPSC