Following WhatsApp's newer data policy, concerns arose over the fate of millions of users' data that the social media giant would be collecting. This app has tons of benefits for users on its plate, but what's scaring people more is the association of its parent company Facebook, which has been embroiled in myriads of scandals involving user data. Over the years, post numerous scandals, the Cambridge Analytica to name a few and a handful of documentaries in Netflix (The Social Dilemma being the latest) Facebook has garnered enough notoriety for itself to be known as a company that sells user data.
To understand how WhatsApp or Facebook would utilize this data collected, it is imperative to understand the business model, which primarily requires sharing personal details of users to third-party advertisers and firms for ‘personalized ads or services’. It also means that the sly algorithm genie of Facebook would now stealthily use this information collected over WhatsApp to curate and modify your feed to manipulate your choices, opinions, beliefs and keep you invested in the platform. WhatsApp agreed to increase its deadline in a dire need to produce a robust response to the intense backlash they faced. The user has to approve the terms and conditions before May 2021. Several influential personalities, including Elon Musk (Tesla fame), condemned it and recommended people to switch to alternative platforms like 'Signal' messaging app. This policy also alienated a vast majority of people. It stands against the promise that Facebook made regarding collection of "as little as data" possible from its users back in 2014 when it acquired WhatsApp.
Despite the "end to end encryption" feature of WhatsApp, the users' specific data now stands vulnerable. What is to be noted is that this safety feature of WhatsApp is not available for business accounts, which means that while engaging with such accounts, data shared through text messages stands open to an infinite number of people. What's worse is that if the concerned business organization or the business account gets hacked, the details shared have no immunity against such attacks which might include the customer's bank details, bills, certificates or insurance. It doesn't eliminate the risk of another possible scandal like that of Cambridge Analytica. It might also prompt one to think about what roles Governments play. Do they become beneficiaries of these policies, or do they protect the citizens against these? India's cybersecurity expert Jiten Jain noted that the government worldwide are the sole custodian of their citizens' rights which can intervene and stop the policy from being put into place.
Organizations outside Europe that store EU citizens' data have to sign up for this rule, including Facebook Inc., to comply with these policies. In simple words, people in the EU have a choice to deflect WhatsApp's current data sharing policy. This sheds light on WhatsApp's problematic double standards, wherein it exercises different policies for Europe and India.
- "GDPR explained: How the new data protection act could change your life", Channel-4 News, May 23, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acijNEErf-c&feature=youtu.be
- “Working on addressing misinformation on user policy update, available to answer any question: WhatsApp”, PTI/ The Hindu, January 20, 2021, https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/working-on-addressing-misi…