How will WhatsApp’s new privacy policy affect you? And do we have an alternative?

Things are changing, continuously, for better or for worse. Who knew we would be talking about replacing our very own WhatsApp? Well, we are, thanks to the many changes in their privacy policy.

The Facebook-owned giant, WhatsApp, shocked more than 2 billion of its customer base with a surprising new set of privacy policies that appeared as a pop-up narrowed down to its crux in the app itself. The so-said claim of Facebook to hold a user’s interest as top priority stirred up controversies and debates as to the authenticity of the claim with this new privacy policy. The promise of privacy has since turned a little hard to believe. However, the worst part is, you don’t get to disagree with the policy changes. Either you live with these changes and fear your privacy in the back of your head or step down and switch to another messaging alternative.

To give a brief overview of where we started, Facebook, while acquiring this giant for USD 19 Billion, promised its large user base to respect their privacy by not altering the privacy policy for the app. The app data, however, was automatically shared to the social media giant Facebook with customer consent and discretion for better ad-targeting, which could be denied at any moment by the user. The app promised its data to be end-to-end encrypted for 5 years now and thus, was able to gain user confidence. Now with these new set of policies, you can say goodbye to the app forever if you wish to opt-out of sharing your personal data with Facebook. This move came in as a move to strengthen Facebook’s hold on people’s lives by generating more revenue through target-based advertising and need-based charges, all as a part of this deep-rooted digital business model. It is heartbreaking in every sense to see how Facebook has turned people’s decision for their privacy their way or no way road.

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Let’s see how these privacy policy changes are-

The technically laid out new privacy policy can be as confusing as it may be for normal people who don’t know the several aspects of technical jargon. Thanks to, however, the internet, we have in front us what these privacy policies are and how exactly do they demand/ take from us.

One of the biggest changes in the policy came with a move to share all of the user’s information, including but not limited to the mobile network, location, battery percentage etc. with its parent company Facebook, which the user cannot deny to. Facebook has been infamous for its privacy breaches and sharing all of the people’s personal information is really risky, to say the least.

As if that wasn’t enough, Facebook would now have access to the groups and conversations you are a part of, your display picture or your online status on the app too. This makes room for more possibilities than users can permit in ode to their privacy.

Oh wait, did we forgot to mention the separate section in the new privacy policy devoted to user’s payments and transactions undertaken through the app? This information would be stored and shared with Facebook, for purposes they cited in the policy as ‘analysis and records’. Well, one as helpless as we are, can only hope for these purposes to be firmly stuck to the ones mentioned because the possibilities run endlessly.

Even though the parent company assured and would definitely not want to exploit user’s data for unfit purposes, the working of the digital world seems to be a little more complicated than that with the past recording stating against our safety presumptions. Experts and analysts have raised questions and stated possibilities of user exploitation with these privacy policy changes in the long run use.

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This brought in various reactions from across the globe, most of distaste and disappointment, and have made people question the presence of WhatsApp in their life as a threat to their privacy. This called in a long list of discussion on alternative messaging platforms that might be safer and more user-privacy friendly than WhatsApp. One such alternative that has come forward, shining the most among others like Telegram and Threema, is the Signal app.

What is the Signal App?

Before talking about this app’s features, let’s talk about how this app serves our privacy concerns and how it won’t leave user privacy in jeopardy, unlike WhatsApp. Signal’s very clear privacy policy claims for data to be end-to-end encrypted with no user data being stored on the servers and no user data linked to the identity. A sigh of relief, right?

Well, it will be happier for people to know that Signal’s features resemble that of WhatsApp in some very apparent ways, including features to send private messages in person or in a group, sharing media files, videos and audios as well as placing voice and video calls. What’s more are the features like anti-surveillance tool, disappearing messages and onscreen privacy options.

With Tesla taking over Facebook in the list of most valuable companies and Facebook being in trouble for the US Capitol incident, The Tesla co-founder Elon Musk has engaged in some healthy competition with Facebook over Twitter and has created whirls in the market. The wealthiest person in the world, Elon Musk’s tweet urging users to switch over to Signal owing to Facebook’s longstanding privacy concerns and user data. This has since surged the downloads of the Signal app to a great extent. Facebook has lost more than a billion in share prices in the first week of 2021.

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Even though we might take a little time getting used to the app’s unique name, for what it’s worth, the Signal app may prove to be a better and safer alternative to WhatsApp. It is satisfactory to think that even if Facebook wouldn’t take these over-the-line policies back, competitive markets have paved a way for consumers to be not exploited by the hands of monopolists and we still have options that value user privacy and consent over revenues.

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