Discussion: What’s more important to you? Access to WhatsApp or your privacy?

Discussion: What’s more important to you? Access to WhatsApp or your privacy?

We often find ourselves at forks between convenience and privacy. Many times, large internet companies usurp users’ choices and force them into sharing their personal data so they can continue using a free service. More often than not, we witness this when an app or service is so engrossingly popular that it almost overshadows any other competitor. Such is what turned out to be the case with WhatsApp, the world’s largest messaging app. WhatsApp will be enforcing a new privacy policy starting early February 2021 for users outside of EU, and this policy allows parent company Facebook to read data such as your mobile number, IP address, and other identifiers to be able to — yes, you guessed it right — serve you more personalized ads. Does that bother you or will you continue to use WhatsApp normally?

The updated WhatsApp Privacy Policy claims these changes will improve how businesses interact with individuals and help the company improve its services. Overall, these changes shall also allow Facebook to use data on how you interact with WhatsApp Business accounts and suggest a variety of other relevant businesses (through targetted advertising) on other Facebook-owned platforms such as the Facebook app, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger. It should also allow you to interlink different Facebook services across different apps — for example, WhatsApp Pay on Instagram. All of these changes are in the pursuit to enable an interconnected Facebook ecosystem.

Most importantly, users cannot back out of this data sharing exercise — unless they live in the EU-governed regions and are protected by GDPR, and the only way out for everyone else is to stop using the app altogether. Given the massive stretch of WhatsApp’s userbase, the second option is almost impossible to execute. Even if you do plan to stop using WhatsApp, how do you convince your friends and kin to stop using the app, especially those who are not very familiar with fast-evolving technologies? Or even convince them why data privacy matters to you and should matter to them as well?

Although there have been rumors about ads within WhatsApp and a paid version of the app to skip those ads, the new privacy policy steers clear of this — for now. The company apparently has no intention to sell banner ads until further notification. But even despite criticism from users as well as the wrath of policy regulators, Facebook is brazen about sharing user data instead of being apologetic and leaves users with a do-or-die conundrum.

What do you feel about this change? If you disapprove, will you jump the gun and delete WhatsApp? Tell us in the comments below!

About author

Tushar Mehta
Tushar Mehta

I am a Senior Editor at XDA. I have been reviewing gadgets for over five years and gained experience by working for prominent tech publications in India before joining XDA. I enjoy fiddling with all smart objects and my love for software customization dates back to the Symbian S60 days. I like to devote my spare time idealizing the romantic union of technology and philosophy or spacing out on Pink Floyd. You may email me at [email protected]