January 16, 2021

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Why are WhatsApp users joining competing platforms? | Privacy News

Changes in privacy terms made by WhatsApp have caused users to migrate to Telegram and Signal’s competitors.

WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service with more than 2 billion users, recently announced controversial changes to its privacy terms, which led to a mass exodus of users to rival platforms, notably Telegram and Signal.

Users outside Europe who do not accept the new terms before February 8 will be disconnected from the messaging app.

WhatsApp says the changes will help it integrate better with Facebook, but tech experts and privacy advocates have raised concerns about data integrity.

Here are four things to know about this issue:

What does the new WhatsApp privacy look like?

Under the new terms, WhatsApp reserves the right to share user data, including location and phone number, with its parent company Facebook Inc and other apps owned by the social networking giant – Instagram and Messenger. Data sharing has been optional until now, but after February 8th it will become mandatory. Tech experts say the move is aimed at monetizing WhatsApp.

Why does it cause users to flee?

Many users are concerned about the move because Facebook has a proven track record of handling user data.

Some privacy activists have called on WhatsApp users on Twitter to switch to apps like Signal and Telegram, and have questioned the “accept our data hijack or exit” movement.

“People no longer want to replace their privacy with free services,” said Pavel Dorov, the Russian-born founder of Telegram.

What other competing apps are there?

More than 100,000 users installed Signal via Apple and Google’s app stores in the past two days, while Telegram has captured nearly 2.2 million downloads, according to data analytics company Sensor Tower.

Sensor Tower said new WhatsApp installations were down 11 percent in the first seven days of 2021 compared to the previous week, but that still had an estimated 10.5 million downloads globally.

Both Telegram and Signal are encrypted messaging apps, which ensures better privacy. It does not allow strangers or the platform itself to see the content of the messages.

What does WhatsApp do about it?

The company tried to reassure users by saying in a blog post that WhatsApp cannot see their private messages or hear their calls, and so does Facebook.

“We do not keep logs of those who write or contact them. We cannot see your shared location and neither can Facebook.”

According to WhatsApp, the location data is encrypted along with the message contents end-to-end.

But other metadata like call logs, location, financial information, etc., may be shared if you use WhatsApp.

“We are giving companies the option to use secure Facebook hosting services to manage WhatsApp conversations with their customers, answer questions, and send useful information such as purchase receipts,” WhatsApp said in the post.

“Whether you communicate with a company via phone, email, or WhatsApp, they can see what they say and may use this information for their own marketing purposes, which may include advertising on Facebook.”