Facebook owns WhatsApp. And their new policies will allow Facebook to access your business account’s data…
The first thing to note is: There are two different types of WhatsApp accounts. Your personal one (which most of us have), and a business add-on that anyone can use to market their small businesses.
“We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way,” said WhatsApp in a statement. “Instead, this update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.”
The confusion over the privacy changes came in because WhatsApp was not initially clear about how the new policies would affect PRIVATE users.
So what’s the big deal about privacy?
There was a lot of hype about WhatsApp sharing your personal data with Facebook. This came as a shock to all users as WhatsApp used to be very about their encryption, and security.
But a lack of communication from WhatsApp, and a rush of social media outrage caused users to panic, and jump ship onto alternative platforms.
Is it worth ditching WhatsApp?
From a very general perspective, if you have a Facebook account, post pictures to Instagram, watch videos on YouTube, have a Pinterest board, or interact online in any way, it’s most likely that Google and Facebook already know everything they want to know about you.
If you really want to keep your preference for chocolate cake recipes and cute cat videos under wraps, then you’re going to have to throw your phone away, bake your own cake, and get a kitten. You’ll have to go back to using smoke signals and pigeons to communicate with family and friends.
While it’s hard to avoid being ‘followed’ digitally, there are ways to keep your important information safe from prying eyes.
Online security experts, Kaspersky, recommend the following:
- Don’t download messengers and other programs from third-party sources. Use only official application marketplaces.
- If possible, acquaint yourself with the user agreement. There are situations when the developer of the app openly warns that they may share user data with third-parties.
- Do not follow suspicious links from messages, even if they were sent to you by your friends.
- Use security solutions when possible on your mobile devices.
- Pay attention to which permissions downloaded applications request. If the requested permission is not necessary for the full functioning of the application, then there is a reason to be wary. For example, the flashlight app clearly doesn’t need access to the microphone.
Why so much hype about digital date? Digital data IS online currency
This is a very basic summary of how it works:
Digital data mining is what helped Facebook grow into the behemoth it is today. Our data is what Facebook (and other apps) use to encourage advertisers to place ads on its platform.
Essentially, YOU (and I) are the products. And our information is “sold” to the highest bidder so that advertisers can target us based on our preferences. The way this data is shared is also key to the security of the data. If Facebook was printing out reams of phone numbers and home addresses, and sending them to random advertisers, we’d be worried.
But what it is really doing is storing the data, and then using its own algorithms to distribute adverts to relevant targets. The advertisers don’t get to see the actual raw data, just the end result.
It’s like this:
- Betty bakes cakes. She sells her delicious cakes to loyal customers. She collects everyone’s cellphone number and home address so she can send them updates on specials and deliver their products to their door.
- Betty has a friend who sells popcorn. Betty charges her friend R100 to send an SMS to all of her customers to advertise the popcorn. She then charges an extra R50 to deliver the product to the clients.
- Betty doesn’t share her database with her friend. She just allows her friend to benefit from it for a fee.
This is how the big, regulated platforms like Facebook work. As Kaspersky warns, don’t download third party apps, and beware of accepting permissions you don’t understand. Downloaded games are notorious for bringing with them a host of ‘unwanted’ extras.
So what information can WhatsApp access?
The following is straight from WhatsApp’s FAQs:
1. We can’t see your private messages or hear your calls, and neither can Facebook:
Neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can read your messages or hear your calls with your friends, family, and co-workers on WhatsApp. Whatever you share, it stays between you. That’s because your personal messages are protected by end-to-end encryption. We will never weaken this security and we clearly label each chat so you know our commitment. Learn more about WhatsApp security here.
2. We don’t keep logs of who everyone is messaging or calling:
While traditionally mobile carriers and operators store this information, we believe that keeping these records for two billion users would be both a privacy and security risk and we don’t do it.
3. We can’t see your shared location and neither can Facebook:
When you share your location with someone on WhatsApp, your location is protected by end-to-end encryption, which means no one can see your location except the people you share it with.
4. We don’t share your contacts with Facebook:
When you give us permission, we access only the phone numbers from your address book to make messaging fast and reliable, and we don’t share your contacts lists with the other apps Facebook offers.
5. Groups remain private:
We use group membership to deliver messages and to protect our service from spam and abuse. We don’t share this data with Facebook for ads purposes. Again, these private chats are end-to-end encrypted so we can’t see their content.
6. You can set your messages to disappear:
For additional privacy, you can choose to set your messages to disappear from chats after you send them. Learn more in this Help Center article.
7. You can download your data:
You can download and see what information we have on your account right from within the app. Learn more in this Help Center article.