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Whatsapp data privacy

WhatsApp data privacy: Why is it important and what do you need to know?

As of 2019, there were 2 billion WhatsApp users around the world – but with the most recent WhatsApp data privacy policy update, the app has seen a mass exodus from its platform, fueling the growth of several of its competitors. 

This event has raised many questions around data privacy and ethical data usage – something we’ve always championed at Apadmi. 

So, we decided to look into it for you. Our automation specialist Jay Hofman has cut through the media noise to reveal what it means for users, what the concerns are around data privacy, and what this means for you on both a personal and business level.

What does the latest WhatsApp data privacy update mean?

The most recent privacy update from WhatsApp has opened up the platform to other Facebook-owned companies. 

What this means is that metadata can be collected on all of your Whatsapp messages and calls, and can then be shared to any of Facebook’s other platforms, including Instagram, Facebook Ads and Messenger. This data can also be used alongside GeoJSON data, to combine time and location information with your own data for further targeting. 

So, what does this mean for you as a user? 

If you’re unconcerned about your data privacy, there’s no reason to leave WhatsApp – you’ll be able to continue using it in the exact same way, and will simply gain more targeted adverts across Facebook platforms. 

On the other hand, if you want to protect your data and keep it private from Facebook in particular, you’ll need to leave the platform and consider alternatives. 

There is still a trick to keeping chats encrypted after agreeing to the new privacy policy though. In any chat’s settings section, it’s possible to access your encryption settings and get an encryption QR code. You can share that code with the other members of the chat to encrypt it. 

If you’re planning to stay on the WhatsApp platform, but want to keep your data private, we advise you do this in as many chats as possible. The only catch is that this has to be done in-person, as the codes must be scanned via user devices – a practice which is particularly difficult right now while social distancing measures are in place. 

How are WhatsApp and Facebook connected?

Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19million back in 2014, but WhatsApp’s strict focus on user privacy and data encryption have protected the platform from many of Facebook’s more unethical privacy policies. 

This has changed with the latest update, as Facebook is starting to bring its messaging platforms, including WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger, into alignment to create a unified messaging platform – meaning each app must now share the same privacy policies. 

What is encryption and why is it important?

The process of encryption protects your data by encoding it, so that only the people you intend to access your data can look at it. It applies to many different platforms and areas of technology – but within messaging, it’s particularly important, as users may share sensitive information with friends or family without wanting it to be shared with others. 

The vast majority of encryption breaches and metadata collections are from data collection groups like Facebook and Google, who are then able to monetise your information to sell to marketing agencies. This monetisation is a primary revenue stream for many data collection groups. 

Data collection companies can gain access to your metadata through the use of privacy policies. 

What is end-to-end encryption?

End-to-end encryption ensures that your message can only be seen by the other people you’re communicating with. It protects your message completely, and allows only the people you wish to see it to view it. WhatsApp does offer end-to-end encryption on some video calls. 

While this does protect your messages from being intercepted, it doesn’t prevent any information from being recorded. 

WhatsApp and Facebook can record the time and place your message was sent from and received, which can allow them to determine the content of the message. They can also monitor how often you talk to someone and what time of day you’re active to better target you. It’s also possible for some malware to access your messages, even when end-to-end encryption is active, on either you or your recipient’s device

What are the alternatives to WhatsApp?

There are several different messaging platforms currently available to users concerned with the protection of their personal information. The most popular are Signal and Telegram, which each have their own strengths and weaknesses. 

Signal

Built by the WhatsApp co-founder and cybersecurity advocate, Brian Acton, Signal is one of the most secure messaging platforms on the market right now. 

It records no data about the user and no data collection groups can monitor any of your interactions on the platform. It has no connection to any cloud and all of your data can be permanently deleted from the platform with ease. 

One of Signal’s biggest advocates is tech mogul Elon Musk, who recently encouraged his followers to move to the platform for instant messaging. 

Telegram

An alternative to Facebook, Telegram has both a social wall and messaging service attached to it, as well as a strong political and business focus. 

The key-based message encryption service on Telegram must be activated and can only be used with direct messages between two participants via a function called Secret Chat. 

While the platform is more secure, the wall and group chats are still open to the same data collection as you would find on WhatsApp or Facebook.

What does the Whatsapp data privacy update mean for businesses?

The WhatsApp privacy scare has highlighted the importance of data advocacy among users in 2021, and should be a clear signal to all businesses that data security should be a priority. 

Ethical data use can still yield incredible marketing results and benefit your brand by championing an issue that your customers care about. 

To find out more about ethical data use and how to implement it in your business check out our recent article about ethical data usage. If you would like to discuss how Apadmi can support your business in ethical data usage, contact us

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