KT edit: Is WhatsApp a victim of FB’s poor record?

WhatsApp, the American freeware, has announced an over three-month delay in the launch of its updated privacy policy.

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Published: Sat 16 Jan 2021, 9:47 PM

Has WhatsApp, an instant cross-platform messaging and voice over internet protocol (VOIP) service owned by Facebook, become a victim of the parent firm’s poor privacy reputation? Let’s delve into the core issue. The immediate trigger is WhatsApp’s data-sharing procedures with Facebook, as many users have expressed their concerns about an updated privacy policy that was originally slated to come into effect from February 8. The policy stipulated sharing of WhatsApp’s sensitive profile information with Facebook. WhatsApp has tried to allay the misconceptions and address swirling speculations. It put out a statement which said: “We are 100% clear we continue to protect your private messages with end-to-end encryption”, but there have been few takers.

WhatsApp, the American freeware, has announced an over three-month delay in the launch of its updated privacy policy, which is now scheduled to be rolled out on May 15. To be sure, the update has nothing to do with either consumer chats or profile data and, instead, deals with how businesses that use WhatsApp for customer service may store logs of their chats on Facebook servers. However, users are incensed, as WhatsApp has been sharing their information with Facebook since 2016, including phone numbers, unless a user is one of the select few who chose to opt for data-sharing while the facility was available that year.

WhatsApp maintains that it doesn’t look at a user’s chat messages or listen to his/her phone calls. End-to-end encryption is said to be the hallmark to protect against any breach of privacy. A new pop-up has put further spanners in WhatsApp’s bid to allay users’ fears. The pop-up instructs users to delete their account if they chose not to agree to the new ground rules. The pop-up is seen as a death-knell for a rampant breach of users’ privacy. WhatsApp released a separate blog post last week to allay the apprehensions and included a chart that specified what information is protected and not shared by a user.

Does the damage-control bid appear too little, too late? Social media is agog with misinformation, which has taken a life of its own and has coalesced into a full-fledged privacy backlash. WhatsApp’s slump has led to rivals Signal and Telegram’s windfall gains last week. Signal, according to mobile app analytics firm Sensor Tower, reported 17.8 million downloads in the week ending January 12, a 61-fold uptick from 285,000 the previous week. Similarly, Telegram recorded 15.7 million during the same period, compared to 7.6m a week ago. Can WhatsApp contain the fallout over the raging privacy policy update row?

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