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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Whatsapp's New Privacy Policy - Things You Need to Know!

Whatsapp started to display a change in its privacy statements a week back and is prompting users to decide for themselves whether they want to share their phone numbers with Facebook or not. Whatsapp after 4 long years for the first time changed its privacy statement. While the previous privacy statement was 2000 words long, the new one is about 7000 words long which in itself states that a lot has changed.

First let us understand what Whatsapp has access to and what it does not. Due to the roll out of new end-to-end encryption in April this year, Whatsapp no longer has access to our images and personal texts but what it has access to is the information about our phone numbers and details of our operating systems. 

Now what is this new privacy policy? According to the new privacy policy Whatsapp can share your profile information with Facebook. Facebook then tries to link your Whatsapp's profile  information with your Facebook account. Facebook says that it is not trying to display your phone number under your profile but they just want to use profile information to show better friend suggestions and help them fight spam accounts. They are also stating that this helps them display relevant ads to users. These are obviously loaded PR words!

Now if you give access to your profile infomation to Facebook, Facebook tries to show you as a friend suggestion to people who have you as a contact in their mobiles. They can also start to display more relevant ads to you. These use cases are okay but what if Facebook decides to do more in the future? Whatsapp says that it is selling your profile information only to Facebook and not to anyone else. That’s fine but what if Facebook wants to leverage that data in the future and sell that to somebody else? The analogy that I can think of is like Whatsapp saying “Hey we are selling guns to a trusted organisation. Its fine!” Now what if that trusted (really?) organisation decides to sell that guns to robbers and psychos? 

Its only logical to think that Facebook should get something from Whatsapp for that they have spent $22 Billion (yes by the time the deal was closed it jumped $3 Billion in value) to acquire it. Now that Facebook had decided to drop subscription model for Whatsapp which used to be a $1 per year this January, the only way Facebook can monetise this platform is to collect some data out of it. 

The voice of this article is a little harsh on Facebook and may look like a rant. But the reason is that, it would have been great for Facebook to take a high moral ground and say users can opt out of sharing their data whenever they want. The caveat here is that you can’t opt out of sharing your data after 30 days of accepting this proposal. 

So before Facebook gives more clarity on the limitations with which they use our data, We suggest you all to uncheck the option of sharing data with Facebook and then accept the new privacy policy. If you have already accepted, you can go to settings and opt out of it within 30 days. To opt out, head to settings -> Account -> Uncheck Share my account info. Breathe! 

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of DoT as a whole.

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