WhatsApp users have been in hot debate and hysteria the past week over new policies regarding the collection of their personal information. Users must now accept this policy, or they will no longer be able to use important features of this app. I think most of this hysteria was unfounded as we should by now know, that most companies require your to agree and accept their terms and conditions for the use of their software or applications (Apps). You may not be aware that every application on a device has these T & C, but you did agree to them when installing it. This includes apps like outlook, gmail, camera apps, weather app, and much more.
In the past we have always agreed to these T & C and I bet 99% of users out there has not blinked an eye and accepted without reading them. So why now is WhatsApp T & C problematic. My opinion is that 2020 has changed the mindsets of people listening and acting irrational, making up their own conspiracy theories about almost everything. Yes we need to be cautious with reason, but we don’t check facts; we listen to various sources and believe MY sources is the correct source. Facebook will still not read your message as WhatsApp a few years ago rolled out end-to-end encryption. Which means your messages will not be read. Did you know that Messenger collects much more data than WhatsApp does?
If you have some understanding of business you should know that Facebook, company owner of WhatsApp, Facebook, Messenger, Instagram etc. is in the business to make money. All the mentioned apps are FREE, so how do they survive? Well with information gathered on different applications which we share with them to understand our needs and communication. If I contact or speak to someone often will Facebook use this to make a friend suggestion which I may not necessarily know.
They make their money on advertisements, as we are all aware. Collecting you online presence to ensure you get related marketing material between different platforms makes complete sense.
Experts with whom Maroela Media spoke believe that this new policy has no significant consequences for users, especially as the content of messages is still private. Other platforms such as Telegram also do not seem to offer a usable alternative.
WhatsApp’s new terms will allow it to share more information with its parent company Facebook and include advertising and e-commerce which are some of the main changes.
Some of the experts in the field had this to say.
“The new regulations announced by WhatsApp do not pose a danger to ordinary people who do not want to hide from the government or the police.” So, says Prof. Wian Erlank, an expert in the field of cyber law and privacy law at North-West University’s Faculty of Law.
“Besides, if you use Facebook Messenger, the new rules will not affect you. Facebook uses much more of its users’ information than WhatsApp,” he explains.
Carla de Beer, social media expert at The Digital Law Co., agrees. She explains that WhatsApp will still not have access to the content of users’ messages, as WhatsApp has a setting called “end-to-end encryption“, which will not be hindered by the new provisions.
“This means that when I send a message to someone via WhatsApp, the content of the message is confused so that no one other than the person to whom the message is sent can understand it. So, even if someone intercepts your message, they will not be able to make out what it says. ”
She believes the biggest risk that WhatsApp’s new terms pose to general users is that more information about your social media habits will be made public – such as who you talk to, how long you’ve been on WhatsApp and what you’re interested in. However, users can manage this risk by limiting their social media presence. “The more information you post about yourself on social platforms, the more they know about you. So, a person who posts posts on Facebook and Instagram every day has less privacy than the person who only does it once every two weeks.”
Erlank believes one of the most notable consequences of the new policy is that users will see many more ads on Facebook.
“Facebook already has a bad reputation for using and misusing consumer information because they do not always explain what they are using the information for. So, it does not make sense to download WhatsApp and still use Facebook and Facebook Messenger – which collects much more of your information.”
The two popular alternatives for WhatsApp are Telegram and Signal. Users who have already moved to Signal say that the features like messaging, videos, calls and media are the same as WhatsApp. One such user says that his main motive for moving was not so much the good security, but rather the censorship that the big IT companies are currently applying to their platforms.
Marius Vermaak, who recently installed Telegram for the first time to see what it looks like and works, is concerned that children may be exposed to explicit content such as pornography. Entertainment explains when you navigate to the options list in Telegram and select the “people nearby” option, people who also live in the area and use Telegram’s profiles appear. In addition, it shows you groups created by administrators in the area.
“There are swingers’ groups and all sorts of other suspicious groups, and anyone with Telegram has access to them. You must first join the group to participate physically, such as writing something or sharing a photo or video, but you do not have to join the group to see the content. The groups I visited for interest were riddled with pornographic material. My concern is that children who have access to a cell phone and use Telegram may come across it. It is so easy,” says Vermaak.
Other users mention that there are not yet enough people in South Africa who use Telegram or Signal to make a move meaningful, and that groups such as schools and churches use WhatsApp to communicate. It will therefore have to be a large-scale migration to be truly meaningful. Telegram also talked about how they are going to have to monetize their platform. How else will they as business stay sustainable?
Telegram does allow you to have much bigger groups than WhatsApp does. I mean the WhatsApp groups are big enough for me for my sanity like I spend a lot of time just muting groups or leaving groups. Already blocking the people who are adding me to groups which is crucial, so how much time will we spend blocking groups of much larger capacity.
“It is indeed difficult for user to separate the wheat from the chaff, but try to stay informed, inquire. Do not simply install anything on your phone, especially if it is free and associated with a lot of ads.”
So, for those wanting to delete WhatsApp to achieve their concerned goal will need to also delete Facebook, Instagram, Messenger etc. Let us be honest and say if security is the main concern why we want to remove these apps, then we should rather ask; how many have a paid version of Anti-virus security and proper firewall setup, 128-bit encryption passwords, 2 step password setup etc.
To achieve full privacy and security online one will need to be completely offline, no internet, no phone, no tablet, or laptop, which is not possible these days.
Yes, read and be aware of each app’s terms and conditions before accepting. Use your WhatsApp or any other Apps responsibly and vigilantly and you should be ok!
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