WhatsApp Privacy Concerns Drive Users to Signal

After WhatsApp users were notified of the app’s data-sharing practices with Facebook, many have begun to seek alternatives.

Following a change in WhatsApp’s stated international privacy policy, which saw the removal of a passage that allowed users to opt out of sharing WhatsApp account information with parent company Facebook, numerous users have begun to switch to other messaging platforms.

The update does not indicate a new data-sharing policy – WhatsApp has been sharing information on most of its users with Facebook since a major update to its policy in August 2016. The now-removed clause referred to WhatsApp’s offer of allowing users to opt out of sharing data with Facebook at that time, which closed after a 30-day period; users who opted out will continue to be exempt from the Facebook data-sharing arrangement.

Among the data WhatsApp shares with Facebook are users’ locations, IP addresses, phone numbers, device battery level, browser information and several other categories.

The company has started to warn users in a pop-up notification that they “need to accept these updates to continue using WhatsApp” after 8 February. If users would rather not consent, the notification directs users to its online help centre “if you would prefer to delete your account”.

As these alerts have been circulated, privacy advocates have raised concerns about the move. “ “Accept our data grab or get out” is pretty far from what consent should look like under GDPR” Privacy International wrote in a tweet.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk also took to Twitter, urging his 41.9 million followers to use competing message app Signal, which was subsequently downloaded by more than 100,000 people. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also retweeted Musk’s message.

The contents of user conversations on WhatsApp will continue to be protected by end-to-end encryption after 8 February. EU and UK users also will remain unaffected by the update, as WhatsApp does not share their data with Facebook overseas.

“There are no changes to WhatsApp’s data sharing practices in the European region (including UK) arising from the updated Terms of Service and Privacy Policy,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said.

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