Tuesday, October 19

You should be concerned about the amount of information WhatsApp shares with Facebook | Burcu Kilic and Sophia Crabbe-Field


Iis the messaging application that connects a quarter of the world’s populationBut many Americans have yet to hear of WhatsApp. That’s because most phone plans in the United States provide a standard flat rate to send text messages that allow people to communicate freely within the country. But in much of the world, including many of the world’s poorest countries, people are loaded for every message they send and receive.

That is why, since its launch in 2009, the free communication application WhatsApp has become a vital resource for billions of people, and they are prepared to defend it. When the Lebanese government tried to bring a “WhatsApp Tax, ”Charging $ 0.20 a day for calls made on the app, helped spark the massive protests that ravaged the country in 2019.

However, one thing that connects Americans to WhatsApp users is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his blatant disregard for data privacy. Facebook acquired whatsapp in 2014 in a move to consolidate control over global communications. Now Zuckerberg is moving forward with a change to WhatsApp’s privacy policy that aims to market our communications to fuel Facebook’s insatiable greed.

At the time of the WhatsApp purchase in 2014, the app was not collecting phone numbers, metadata, or other contact information. Facebook promised to keep it that way. “We are not going to change the plans around WhatsApp and the way it uses user data at all,” Zuckerberg said. reclaimed. “WhatsApp will work completely autonomously.”

However, on May 15, when Zuckerberg rolls out a new privacy update, this will be just one more in a series of his broken promises on data privacy. In 2016, WhatsApp implemented an update to its terms and conditions that allowed data such as a user’s phone number to be shared with Facebook. Users were technically given a 30-day notice to opt out. However, many were unaware of the potential opt-out and missed the small window in which they could do so, while the roughly 1 billion users who have since joined received No choice absolutely.

WhatsApp announced its latest privacy update in January, with changes initially aimed at take effect February 8. However, a popular outcry pushed the date back to May 15, and Facebook was no doubt hoping the public outrage would fade, paving the way for a quiet implementation.

But the public outrage has not faded. And so Facebook has opted for a familiar tactic: sow confusion and force through your new policy change anyway. The company is pestering WhatsApp users to agree to the policy change before May 15 or, under a new opaque deadline, a few extra weeks. Those who ignore or reject the decision will lose access to the basic functioning of WhatsApp.

Now is the time for Zuckerberg to change course in this latest assault on global communications and protect the privacy of all WhatsApp users in this critical hour for democracy and dissent around the world.

Facebook, for its part, has spent the months since the announcement downplaying the importance of these privacy updates, arguing that their latest changes will only affect communication with business accounts (WhatsApp Business was launched in January 2018). In truth, the changes allow Facebook to collect payment and transaction data from WhatsApp users, which means Facebook will be able to collect even more data and target users with increasingly personalized ads. WhatsApp has also removed a passage in its privacy policy about not sharing data with Facebook. Facebook argues that this simply reflects what been in place since 2016. That is exactly the problem.

Today’s WhatsApp share a lot of information with Facebook promised that it would not, including account information, phone numbers, how often and how long people use WhatsApp, information on how they interact with other users, IP addresses, browser details, language, time zone , etc. This latest foray has highlighted the amount of data that has been shared over the years without the knowledge of most users.

Facebook is abusing its monopoly position again and is counting on a lack of options to ensure it can extract even more wealth from WhatsApp. And this time you cannot opt ​​out. As part of an ongoing 2020 lawsuit brought by 48 US states and districts against Facebook, largely due to its takeovers of Instagram and WhatsApp, New York Attorney General Letitia James has argued: “Instead From competing on merits, Facebook used its powers to suppress competition so it could take advantage of users and earn billions by turning personal data into a source of income. “

However, this is not the case for Europeans, among whom WhatsApp is also extremely popular. Europeans privacy it is protected thanks to the General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union. Meanwhile, in India, where more than 400 million people use whatsapp, delhi high court is petitioner Facebook to provide an opt-out option. The statement in the high court is simply a request for WhatsApp to provide the same privacy standards to its Indian users as it does to those in the EU. Policymakers around the world have a duty to do the same and protect citizens from intrusions that discriminate against users in the developing world.

We cannot allow Mark Zuckerberg to use one of the world’s leading messaging services as his latest gold mine of data. May 15 is fast approaching. We must guarantee the right to privacy for everyone. We can start by ending Facebook’s latest move against WhatsApp users. But Facebook has shown, once again, that when it comes to data mining, there are no promises that it won’t be broken. Given Facebook’s business model, based on invasion of privacy and consumer exploitation, Facebook should never have been allowed to acquire WhatsApp. The time has come to break Facebook. The time to act is now.


www.theguardian.com

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