WhatsApp privacy issues: Why UAE users are switching to alternative platforms

Dubai - Several residents waiting to see if messaging service changes its new update before deadline.


Rohma Sadaqat

Published: Tue 12 Jan 2021, 5:13 PM

Last updated: Wed 13 Jan 2021, 11:02 AM

Residents across the UAE have noted that they are increasingly wary about the privacy of their data on Whatsapp and are considering making the switch to either the Signal or Telegram messaging app.

Many said that they have already made the switch, while others said that they will adopt a wait-and-see approach before deciding on which messaging platform will best suit their needs.

Yusuf Stapic, a Dubai resident, noted that the Signal app seems to be among the most popular choices at the moment. However, he also pointed out that many people were still a bit reluctant to switch, considering how long they have stuck with one app.

Will you consider deactivating your WhatsApp account and switching to Telegram, Signal or any other app?

Posted by Khaleej Times onTuesday, January 12, 2021

“People are waiting to see if Whatsapp might review and change its new update before the deadline. Also, many users are increasingly suspicious about Facebook and what it does with their data. Their misuse of data led to them being under increased scrutiny and having to appear before the US Congress, and people haven’t forgotten about that.”

Earlier this month, Facebook-owned Whatsapp issued an in-app notification to users asking them to either accept the changes in its Terms of Service and privacy policy by February 8, or risk losing access to their accounts. Users immediately set out to look for alternatives and weighed the decision to switch to what they consider to be a safer and more secure messaging service. Tesla CEO and world’s richest man, Elon Musk, urged his followers on Twitter to use the Signal encrypted messaging app, which lead to a surge in users downloading the app. Online traffic also increased towards Telegram, another open-source messaging app that has been Whatsapp’s biggest competitor for a while.

However, while there has been a surge in recent downloads, many residents said that it will take time for things to settle, and that it won’t be a complete transition from one app to another.

“I switched to Signal, but very few other people in my contact list transitioned despite an invitation, so I guess I will only be using the ‘Notes to Self’ feature for a while,” said Saba Raza.

She added that she is using both Signal and Whatsapp because there are a few groups that she is a part of on Whatsapp, which will make switching completely a bit difficult.

WhatsApp on Tuesday clarified that its new policy update does not affect the privacy of users’ messages with friends or family, and that the update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional.

“Neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can read your messages or hear your calls with your friends, family, and co-workers on WhatsApp. Whatever you share, it stays between you. That’s because your personal messages are protected by end-to-end encryption. We will never weaken this security and we clearly label each chat so you know our commitment,” the statement on the WhatsApp website said.

“I think the more social media is integrated in our life, the more important it is for us to understand the implications of the use of social media platforms on our lives as individuals, and also on society,” said Sohail Dahdal, associate professor, Department of Mass Communication, American University of Sharjah.

“These last few years, there has been an increase in awareness by the public on the implications of third party use of data, and also the idea that we are giving social media platforms our data for free. The issue is three folds: privacy and the misuse of data, the long-term effect of leaving a digital footprint, and lastly the dollar value of our data. Of course, social media platforms counter that they need our data to serve us better and that they also need to utilise that data for profit so that they can give us a value for money.”

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