WhatsApp’s new policy which is forcing users to agree to share user information with Facebook, its parent company, has drawn serious concern from both WhatsApp users and antitrust bodies around the world.
On January 4, the chat messaging app announced that the new policy will require collecting some private information for ad and marketing purposes, and any user who declines to provide the information will not be able to create an account.
“You must provide your mobile phone number and basic information (including a profile name of your choice) to create a WhatsApp account. If you don’t provide us with this information, you will not be able to create an account to use our Services. You can add other information to your account, such as a profile picture and “about” information,” the new policy says.
The new rule which is billed to take effect from February 8 also said that the use of some features of WhatsApp will require additional personal information. And a user who chooses not to provide the information will not be able to use the feature. For example, you cannot share your location with your contacts if you do not permit us to collect your location data from your device, the policy says.
Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk was among the first to respond to the development, urging people to switch to Signal, a non-profit chat app that cares less about user data. And Signal has promptly responded by condemning Facebook’s private data-driven business model.
“Facebook is probably more comfortable selling ads than buying them, but they’ll do what they have to do in order to be the top result when some people search for ‘Signal’ in the App Store,” Signal said in a statement on Sunday.
Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey shared a screenshot of Signal topping the App Store, in the wake of the uproar generated by WhatsApp’s new policy.
Other instant messaging apps have also ceased the event to promote their services. On Sunday, Telegram tweeted a GIF of pallbearers, in a mock campaign against WhatsApp as the messaging app trends on Twitter.
When a Twitter user said: “Some of us clicked agree already, [talking about the new WhatsApp policy] should I burn my phone?” Telegram responded: “No, that’s bad for the environment. Simply uninstall it and move on with your life. Just like your exes, it wasn’t good enough for you – you deserve better.”
Many WhatsApp users are not on Facebook. The new rule means your WhatsApp personal information will be shared with third parties on Facebook, and that many people like Musk are not ready to do so.
Musk has always been critical of Facebook founder and CEO Zuckerberg’s user-data driven business model, but this time, he got the support of many.
Last year, Apple introduced new privacy rules that denied Facebook access to iPhone users’ private data. The new policy which came with iOS 14 prevents apps from tracking users using their unique device identifier without their explicit permission.
Facebook has been using IDFA to personalize ads in third-party apps, and Zuckerberg said the change in iOS 14 will greatly hurt his social media platform’s earnings. His efforts to get Apple to review the policy failed.
This new WhatsApp policy means that Zuckerberg is looking for alternatives to the restricted iPhone IDAF, and sees the chat app as another way to generate user data for targeted ads. But it is a dangerous move that may backfire.
With the number of users indicating interest in making a switch to other chat apps, WhatsApp is on the verge of losing the vast majority of its close to 2 billion users.
As the momentum garners, regulators around the world are studying the new policy to see if it violates the use of any private data rules, as it means sharing user information with businesses and third party services providers that transact business on both WhatsApp and Facebook.