WhatsApp New Privacy Policy Requires You to Share With Facebook... Except in the EU

Jan 10, 2021

If you are a WhatsApp user, you may have noticed the privacy update popup. You must accept the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy by February 8, or lose access to the application. Under the new terms, your data will be shared with Facebook.

More privacy invasion

Notice the justification: "to improve the service and your experience". It is hard to understand how the user experience can be improved by invading their privacy even further and forcing more targetted ads on them. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if false justifications would render the whole clause invalid?

While we’re a it, let’s have a good laugh at this older version of the T&C and admire the level of cynicism, and the lies:

Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA. Since we started WhatsApp, we’ve aspired to build our Services with a set of strong privacy principles in mind

Maybe a bad COVID-19 vaccine mutated their DNA, who knows (punchline by this guy). In general, always consider these empty statements with suspicion, as they bear no binding engagement.

Not in the EU

But fret not EU residents! It seems there are no changes in data sharing in the EU region:

For the avoidance of any doubt, it is still the case that WhatsApp does not share European region WhatsApp user data with Facebook for the purpose of Facebook using this data to improve its products or advertisements

Or as stated here:

These policy changes apply everywhere except the EU, where WhatsApp has to work according to robust GDPR guidelines

Tips to switch to alternatives

We in Europe can be relieved, but the threat is still looming. At some point, they will find another way, or at least try. They may even exchange data covertly, hoping to get away with it. Who knows. The financial gains are too large to pass. We must realise we rely on closed-source software operated "for free" by greedy corporations to communicate. This does not bode well to serve our interests. We simply cannot trust companies like Facebook.

In the meantime, consider alternatives such as Signal and Telegram. They are not perfect even from a privacy perspective, but they offer a great balance between ease of use, convenience, availability and privacy. Therefore, they have a greater chance to be accepted by the persons you want to communicate with. It is a downhill battle to convince users to install arcane applications from an alternate app store when the threats are not that obvious to them.

Convincing people to switch app is never easy. People you contact unfrequently for instance may not humour your request to leave WhatsApp. Choose your audience wisely. First, make sure you have used the application for a good amount of time, so that you are aware of its limitations (group chats and video chats or not) and quircks. This increases the chances of a smooth ride. Then you can start talking to your immediate surroundings — family and close friends — and explain what is at stake, and why you would prefer to use alternatives more respectful than Instagram, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger. At least they should hear you out. They will realize that some alternatives are as convenient while respecting privacy.

This latest change in WhatsApp T&C makes the issue very real.

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