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WhatsApp's Privacy Dilemma: Navigating the Shift in Terms and Policies

  • 11 Pages
  • Published On: 06-12-2023
Introduction

A few years back WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook, as similar to that of Instagram has updated its terms and policies. Whatsapp is basically a communication messaging application one can install in their smartphones either through playstore, applestore or through the company’s website. It has the ability to make phone calls and do video chats. It also provides the facility to attach and send documents, photos and videos (Dove, J. and Beaton, P. (2021). All these facilities have been absolutely free over the years just using cell phone data. There is no requirement for any additional money for using the application. ( Dove, J. and Beaton, P. (2021) Initiated in 2009, today WhatsApp has over a billion users across the world. One can download WhatsApp from the app store like the google play store and android (Ling Y, 2021). After opening the application, one has to press the agree and continue by accepting all its terms and conditions. By pressing ‘accept’ one voluntarily allows WhatsApp to uses their phone number to connect. Till here, it seems to be a really simple process. However, recently WhatsApp has updated its terms and conditions whereby it ask its consumers to share their private data with the Facebook leading to share their personal data with the world at large. The new arrangement targets business cooperation’s, exchanges and other business-related highlights, permits WhatsApp and Facebook to help outsider specialist organizations to have an insight into the private space of the users. Additionally, it came with a notification that the users who don't acknowledge the new security strategy of WhatsApp will lose their record on February 8, 2021 (Romita Raj,Inc42 Media. (2021).

This new update of Whatapp has been perceived by specialists as a maltreatment. The reasoning lies in the ineffectively disclosed update to its terms of administration. This has pushed WhatsApp clients to receive elective administrations like Signal and Telegram in their millions. A huge proportion of them took to social media sites to share their disappointment with the update. Information followed by the investigation firm App Annie shows WhatsApp tumbling from the eighth most downloaded application in the UK toward the start of the month to the 23rd by 12 January. On the other hand, Signal wasn't even in the main 1,000 applications in the UK on 6 January, yet by 9 January it was the most downloaded application in the country (The Guardian. 2021). Screen captures of the terms and conditions went viral along with strong headlines that if one doesn’t acknowledge the terms and conditions of WhatsApp their accounts would be automatically deleted. This is a concern as the new approach predominantly focuses on business communications, connections and other corporation highlights, all of which seem to empower WhatsApp and Facebook to superiorly assist outsider specialist cooperatives and provide advanced highlights, such as, among others, investigation. Numerous netizens felt that the stage has just tended to how they will not do the clients' data and information. Numerous netizens felt that the informing application has left out how they will do the clients' data. WhatsApp's most recent security strategy update and explanation blog neglected to persuade various netizens about their protection on the application. They took to Twitter via memes and communicated how they felt about the protection strategy update message (Pathania, A., 2021).

Whatsapp

Screen captures of the terms and conditions went viral along with strong headlines that if one doesn’t acknowledge the terms and conditions of WhatsApp their accounts would be automatically deleted. This is a concern as the new approach predominantly focuses on business communications, connections and other corporation highlights, all of which seem to empower WhatsApp and Facebook to superiorly assist outsider specialist cooperatives and provide advanced highlights, such as, among others, investigation. However, such an insufficiently revealed update to its terms of danger evaluation has driven WhatsApp clients in their thousands to accept elective organizations like Signal and Telegram. The detachment has started to be enormous to the degree that WhatsApp has been forced to postpone the introduction of the new terms scheduled and to carry out a damage restriction mission to report the progress they were making to customers. (The Independent, 2020)

Argument put forwarded by the Press

WhatsApp had affirmed to The Independent that all clients "should concur" to the new terms by 8 February 2021 in the event that they need to keep utilizing the application. However, it is absurd that it did not remark on any of the new highlights. Only a representative on behalf of the firm said the progressions have been made in a manner in which organizations will actually want to work on the stage and cooperate with clients.

In 2018, WhatsApp author Jan Koum ventured down as the association's CEO in the midst of tension about protection and information security commented that organizations know in a real sense every little thing about an individual, their companions, their inclinations including everything used by them to sell advertisement. This was written by him in a blog entry before the Facebook deal. It has also been disclosed by sources to the Washington, that his stepping down was related to the privacy concern.

In addition to this, Fellow co-founder Brian Acton before its deal with facebook also stepped down commenting to forbes that he sold his user’s privacy for benefit. However, Pavel Durov have stated that whatsapp has history of providing security to its users which they would never breach. (Cuthberston, A., 2020) This brings the whole matter to a confused state as on one hand ex-employees of the company makes statements that highlights the concern of breach of privacy while on the other hand the company has been updating its features to provide a more space platform for its users. For instance, it enabled the feature of encryption.

The shift in WhatsApp’s policy

It is astounding for the overall population on the grounds that WhatsApp has now essentially given more knowledge presently with regards to how the informing application will function now. This publicity is on the grounds that the informing stage will utilize its new client information and all the more critically will advance it with its parent organization, Facebook going ahead (Rajagopal, K. (2021). However, the irony lies that the WhatsApp updating its new terms and privacy policy is not new. Most of the software do update their services occasionally. It is a standard practice that in order to continue using these services, the user accepts the new condition and policy. However, it is only this time, WhatsApp had given a deadline of February 8, to accept the new policy or delete your account. Both Android and IOS users received a full-screen pop up on their application, that provided a snapshot of the key updates. (Hindustan Times, 2021).

In defence to the controversy, whatsapp has released through FAQ held out that the new approach permits Facebook to get to these business cooperations and client shopping action to target promotions and modify content. They clarified that the update doesn't influence the security of your messages with companions or family in any capacity. All things being equal, this update incorporates changes identified with informing a business on WhatsApp, which is discretionary, and gives further straightforwardness about how they gather and use information. WhatsApp said it can't see clients' private messages or hear their calls, and neither can Facebook. It added it doesn't keep up logs of who everybody is informing or calling and it doesn't impart clients' contacts to Facebook. It utilizes bunch participation to convey messages and to shield its administration from spam and misuse and doesn't impart the information to Facebook for promotions (The Economic Times, 2021).

Major changes

The older version of the privacy policy used to state that the application has intended to respect our privacy and claims that such a policy has been embedded in their DNA. Thus, as they have created WhatsApp, their goal lies to aspire to build their services with a set of strong privacy policy principles in mind (Anon, mint. (2021).However, these lines are longer part of the new privacy policy. Linking, the cell phone number of customers and WhatsApp to their Facebook account and other Facebook products (such as Instagram), allowing the company access to consumer identifiers closer to home (SMEX, 2021).

This brings into the notice that currently looking at coordinating the data set with Facebook, which could on a future date resort to focused publicizing and political missions dependent on client data. So there is a reason to worry about the security as it intends to adapt the client information.

However, in any case, (Bloomberg.com, 2020) WhatsApp stays end to end encrypted, which means that the messages will not be seen and never exchanged with others. Be that as it may, the new framework indicates a growing emphasis on other Facebook products. ( Bloomberg.com, 2020)

Further, WhatsApp privacy policy notes that when users rely on ‘third party services’ or other Facebook company products that are integrated with our services. Those third-party services may receive information about what one or other shares with them (HW English. (2021). Examples of this kind of third-integration include using the in-app video player to play content from a third-party platform. Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) are allowed by Outsider Apps to integrate their SaaS and PaaS products with the Workplace. These applications will then be able to be implemented by any Workplace client to communicate substantial robotization after being audited and approved by the Workplace community (Facebook for Developers, 2021). For instance, when we use Google drive or iCloud to backup data of our chats, these services are in effect getting access to your messages. (The Federal, 2021)

So, technically this update signifies that in reality nothing has changed, except that WhatsApp is elaborating further what it means for data sharing when users rely on these third-integrations for storage like google drive or Icloud.

The information exchange will also be used to enhance "appropriate deals and advertisement" across all Facebook company products, according to the paper. Some examples given of WhatsApp- Facebook integration are the ability to pay for the products on WhatsApp-Facebook integration are the ability to pay for products on WhatsApp using Facebook Pay, which is available in the United States (Facebook for Developers, 2020). So, The application will now use the Status feature to share their values and updates directly within WhatsApp.

New Hardware Information

WhatsApp has stated that it is gathering new data around from your gadget, for example, – battery level, signal strength, application variant, program data, versatile organization administrator or the ISP, language and time region, IP address, gadget activity data. These were not referenced in the past arrangement. (Gadget Now, 2021).

Data localization and storage

The concept of data localization arises when the need to localize or store data of the citizen of a country through the process of either collection or analyzed and processed arises. This also takes place before the process of transferring the same stored data outside the international borders. The catch lies since these data can only be utilized or transferred but it has to align with the data protection laws that originally govern the country. The data protection laws ensure that the information receive the consent of the owner and the user, only then will the data be used for any other purpose. Along with localizing the data, the concept of sovereignty arises wherein the information of a country’s citizen are just a means to record and process the same but the localization is stronger and mandates it to remain within national borders. Whatsapp also clearly mention in the privacy policy that it was Facebook’s global infrastructure and data centers, including those in the United States to store user data. This was not explicitly mentioned in the previous policy. It also states that the data in some cases will be transferred to the United States or other parts where Facebook’s affiliate companies are based, adding that these transfers are necessary to provide the global services set forth in our terms. ( Upadhayay, A., 2021)

Location information

The information of one’s location that precisely collects the active geographical location accessing through the independent network and data of the cell phone. WhatsApp will now collect and use precise location information from one’s device. Even if the user does not use their location-relation features, they collect the IP address and other information like their contact number area codes to the estimate one’s general location which maybe one’s city or country. This information collected could be detrimental to one’s privacy which can track the physical location of a person acting in pure violation. (Whatsapp.com, 2021)

Payment data

WhatsApp has rolled out payments in various countries. It says that if one uses their payments services, they will process additional information about them, including payment account and the transaction information, thus allowing a third party to be able to have access to financial data and other details about one’s account. Earlier the WhatsaApp policy also had the option for the users to have a choice whether they can opt out of the option to share the usage of data and can have an option to not share all reelavnt private data with Facebook which is mostly required to have a better experience for Facebook’s advertisement and other experiences of the products. This policy was included in the earlier version but such has been completely overturned in the newer updated version of the policy making it absolutely mandatory for the user to share their information with Facebook at any cost. Whatsapp is known to be produced in the market in 2009 and even a few years back there were more than 300 million active users. However, the intervention of Facebook in the year of 2014 changed the scenario a little wherein, the accessibility of data of the user has been enhanced and incorporated with one another. This also reflects another attitude of the Whatsapp owner that it is now designed in a way that it has become an integral part of the system of the people in general and at this point it will be left on the users to come to a decision whether they want to use the same or not. These policies may allow any third party to be able to oversee all such crucial information and that can be exploited in the future breaching the privacy at all levels. Had there been an independent body that had the power to keep a check on these third-party assessments regarding the amount and details of the data that are being either transferred or kept in check. This clearly shows that there is no clarity from the end of Whatsapp with regards to what kind and how much data will be actually sued or are free to be overseen and utilized by any third party (Bloomberg.com, 2021)

These policy changes were not received well with the public and has been a topic for debate in the past few months. Due to the major backlash in the media WhatsApp has decided to delay its update in the privacy policy following mass confusion over what the data shares with its parent company, Facebook. Now it wants to roll out until May 15. Because of the widespread reaction to a forthcoming security policy change, WhatsApp has added a new FAQ page to its website outlining its positions on client defense. They put forward in their defense that the update has nothing to do with purchaser talks or profile information, and rather the change is intended to lay out how organizations who use WhatsApp for client assistance may store logs of its visits on Facebook workers. That is something the organization feels it is needed to uncover in its protection strategy, which it's currently doing subsequent to reviewing the forthcoming changes to business talks back in October. They furthered cleared that the agreement update has no effect on the protection of your communications with friends and family. Under normal circumstances, this update introduces changes related to advising a company on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides more details about how they collect and use information. (Mihindukulasuriya, R. (2021)

They stated that the it would not keep the logs of who everyone is either calling or messaging. Further, assuring that private information would not be shared over facebook. The users would have the privilege to set their messages disappear. They would not have the access to monitor the shared location either on whatsapp nor on facebook. One can also easily download their own data (Mihindukulasuriya, R. (2021).

Will Cathcarth, the Whatsapp chief has tweeted regarding the issue and mentioned that the “end-to-end encryption” upholds the privacy of the chats, text messages, video calls, voice calls absolutely and in no way can the privacy with that respect can be violated. He also urged that the idea of Whatsapp is committed in forming a technology that is applicable globally and does not offend and class of the users. He further highlighted that it is of utmost importance to them that it deals with the communication involved in business and has nothing to do with the data sharing policies with Facebook at any cost and does not impact the private relationship shared by one’s friends or family in any way (Mihindukulasuriya, R. (2021).

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Conclusion

In the event that they did not exchange data as opposed to making it an impulse, considering WhatsApp's part of the overall industry, WhatsApp should have provided customers an option to exit those administrations. with its intrusion into the UPI domain, the basic concept of client information on WhatsApp has only evolved. Clients can communicate with a wider audience on Facebook, and they are conscious that they will be exposed to public data. However, correspondence is usually balanced because of WhatsApp. If consumers see ads on Facebook that relate to their financial transactions on WhatsApp, it will feel like a breach of security, and it will seem to be risky as well as dangerous on a moral front. Regardless of the clarity provided by WhatsApp that it cannot see the content of a message, it does collect other valuable information, some of which is shared with Facebook. As it now disseminates information regarding the client's record enrollment data, for instance their contact number, administration-related data. This also includes data on how one can collaborate with others organizations with using the client's IP address. In the latest update, that the reference to that no longer available to opt-out option has been removed

References

Anthony Cuthberston,The Independent. (2020). WhatsApp will force users to agree to new terms in 2021 or else “lose access to the app.” [online] Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/whatsapp-update-latest-feature-2021-b1765169.html [Accessed 27 Feb. 2021].

Anon, mint. (2021). WhatsApp’s new privacy policy update to share your data with Facebook. [online] Available at: https://www.livemint.com/technology/tech-news/whatsapps-new-privacy-policy-terms-of-service-update-to-share-your-data-with-facebook-11610081872953.html [Accessed 27 Feb. 2021].

Business of Apps. (2019). WhatsApp Revenue and Usage Statistics (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.businessofapps.com/data/whatsapp-statistics/.

Cuthberston, A., 2020. WhatsApp will force users to agree to new terms in 2021 or else ‘lose access to the app’. [online] The Independent. Available at: [Accessed 25 March 2021].

Dove, J. and Beaton, P. (2021). Here’s your guide to WhatsApp, one of the best messaging apps ever. [online] Digital Trends. Available at: https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/what-is-whatsapp/ [Accessed Feb. 26,2021].

Facebook Sees WhatsApp As Its Future, Antitrust Suit or Not. (2020). Bloomberg.com. [online] 9 Dec. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-12-09/facebook-fb-plans-to-turn-messaging-app-whatsapp-into-a-moneymaking-business. [Accessed 27 Feb. 2021]

Facebook for Developers. (n.d.). Third Party Apps - Workplace - Documentation. [online] Available at: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/workplace/third-party-apps/introduction/ [Accessed 27 Feb. 2021].

Gadget Now. (n.d.). WhatsApp rolls out new privacy policy: What it means for you - Latest News | Gadgets Now. [online] Available at: https://www.gadgetsnow.com/tech-news/what-you-should-know-about-whatsapps-new-privacy-policy-and-why-its-important/articleshow/80146756.cms#:~:text=In%20terms%20of%20hardware%20data [Accessed 27 Feb. 2021].

Hindustan Times. (2021). WhatsApp updates terms of service: Makes it mandatory to accept new privacy policy. [online] Available at: https://www.hindustantimes.com/business-news/whatsapp-updates-terms-of-service-makes-it-mandatory-to-accept-new-privacy-policy/story-XBJ4BHC6mssL6bZmaJpTtM.html [Accessed 27 Feb. 2021].

HW English. (2021). What Is WhatsApp’s New Privacy Policy & Why You Should Be Concerned? [online] Available at: https://hwnews.in/news/national-news/whatsapps-new-privacy-policy-concerned/150140 [Accessed 27 Feb. 2021].

Ling, Y., 2020. Top 10 WhatsApp Statistics You Should Know in 2021. [online] Oberlo.in. Available at: [Accessed 25 March 2021].

Mihindukulasuriya, R. (2021). Privacy policy update won’t change data sharing practices with Facebook — WhatsApp head. [online] ThePrint. Available at: https://theprint.in/tech/privacy-policy-update-wont-change-data-sharing-practices-with-facebook-whatsapp-head/582927/ [Accessed 27 Feb. 2021]

Pathania, A., 2021. Whatsapp privacy policy update blog triggers memefest among netizens. [online] Republic World. Available at: [Accessed 25 March 2021].

Romita Raj,Inc42 Media. (2021). Why India’s Industry And Privacy Experts Are Worried About WhatsApp’s New Privacy Policy? [online] Available at: https://inc42.com/features/why-industry-and-privacy-experts-are-worried-about-whatsapps-new-privacy-policy/ [Accessed 27 Feb. 2021].

Rajagopal, K. (2021). WhatsApp policy: Indians apprehensive about privacy, says CJI. The Hindu. [online] 15 Feb. Available at: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-notice-to-centre-whatsapp-on-plea-alleging-lower-standards-of-privacy-for-indian-users/article33840452.ece [Accessed 27 Feb. 2021].

SMEX. (2021). A New (Non-)Privacy Policy from WhatsApp? [A comparison between messaging applications]. [online] Available at: https://smex.org/a-new-non-privacy-policy-from-whatsapp-a-comparison-between-messaging-applications/ [Accessed 27 Feb. 2021].

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