SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 18 May 2021, Tuesday | النسخة العربية

The instant messaging platform WhatsApp announced in early 2021 a new privacy policy that had to be accepted by 8 February. However, this new measure established by the application created a great deal of controversy that led to its implementation being delayed until 15 May, which seems to be the final date.

If the new privacy policy is not accepted, the popular application will begin to limit its functions. WhatsApp will continue to allow calls and message notifications, but users will not be able to reply to conversations. In addition, if the user still does not accept the conditions within 120 days, the application will delete the account and all chats, files and call logs will be lost.

WhatsApp’s new privacy terms reserve the right to share user data, including location and phone number, with its parent Facebook Inc and units such as Instagram and Messenger. However, in the wake of the controversy, WhatsApp sought to reassure its two billion users that “the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way.” It also said it would continue to offer end-to-end encryption for private messages, as well as not keeping logs of messages and calls. The messaging app sought to address “some of the rumours going around”, saying the new privacy policy will not affect the security of everyday conversations. They also stressed that neither the app nor Facebook can see private messages. The Facebook Inc-owned app said it also did not keep logs of who users were messaging or calling and neither it nor Facebook could see the location of a user shared by them with someone on WhatsApp. Data integration between WhatsApp and Mark Zuckerberg’s social network began in 2016 with the aim of improving the user experience.

However, there are those who do not trust this “transparency” that WhatsApp officials are talking about. In Germany, this new privacy policy could be considered illegal. Johannes Caspar, Hamburg’s Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, is considering declaring the policy illegal. For Caspar, the main problem and most worrying point is the sharing of data by the application. Information that is transferred to Facebook to expand the advertising business. “It is therefore all the more important to ensure that the high number of users, which makes the service attractive to many people, does not lead to an abusive exploitation of data power,” Caspar told Bloomberg. It is estimated that almost 60 million people in Germany use WhatsApp. “Up to now there has been no supervisory review of the actual processing operations between WhatsApp and Facebook that we are aware of,” Caspar added.

EU data protection regulations prevent Facebook from sharing WhatsApp data. However, since Mark Zuckerberg’s company acquired WhatsApp one of its goals has been to share user data between the two platforms. The EU has not yet allowed this, and in fact people using WhatsApp from member countries use it through the WhatsApp Ireland Limited app and not WhatsApp LLC. The former, based in Dublin, is governed by Brussels rules, protecting users’ data.

On the other hand, similar apps such as Telegram and Signal have benefited from WhatsApp’s loss of popularity and trust. Both platforms have experienced an increase in new users unhappy with their rival’s privacy policy.