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Jan 14, 2021

WhatsApp’s Revised Privacy Policy – What Will It Mean for You?

Two billion people are registered users of the messaging service WhatsApp. It’s one of the most widely used apps across the world. And in these COVID times, it has helped many of us stay in touch with loves ones with their text, voice, and video messages and calls. But a recent update has left many worried about the privacy of their data and caused some to abandon the app altogether.  So what’s the concern about the latest update? We asked one attorney to breakdown the latest policy changes. Andrea Polanco reports.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

If you are a WhatsApp user, it’s likely that you have seen the app’s updated privacy policy which will come into effect next month. The issue with this privacy policy is that you either accept it or you terminate your WhatsApp service. But what exactly does this updated policy mean? Attorney Marissa Longsworth breaks it down.


Marissa Longsworth

Marissa Longsworth, Attorney-at-law

“It basically covers that WhatsApp information can be provided to Facebook. Facebook is the parent company now of WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram. So, what is happening is that we are starting to see this cross-sectioning of information and data and that is affecting how the information is shared between the different apps and so one of those changes that we are seeing has to do with this particular change to the license agreement.”


In recent years, WhatsApp has become the most popular mobile messaging service. There are approximately two billion WhatsApp users across the world – and if your family, friends or co-workers are using it to communicate you may want keep using the app. But because WhatsApp is not giving users a choice to opt out of this agreement, users are concerned about their privacy on the app. The messaging app says private messages, as well as group messages and calls with friends and family cannot be accessed because it is protected by end-to-end encryption. The social media site also clarified that logs of these private calls and messages are not stored; locations you share nor contact lists are being affected by the changes.


Marissa Longsworth

“The main change that WhatsApp claims is happening right now – I don’t know if people have noticed recently, but if you go on a business page on Facebook it offers you a button to click to go straight to WhatsApp with that business. So, you can click in Facebook and be re-directed to Facebook with that business. So, naturally there has to be an exchange of data and information. Facebook would collect that data to say that the business was clicked by this phone number and they had a conversation. Maybe the business sent you a catalogue from Facebook on to WhatsApp to show you the goods and services because now you know you have the shop feature right on Facebook as well. So, those are the types of interactions that WhatsApp is saying is being covered under this change. They are saying that it is strictly related to business interactions with business pages. But, yes, your phone number can be shared with Facebook and those businesses as well.”


And that cross-sharing of your data with businesses you interact with comes down to revenues for these social media sites. Although it is free to sign up for these apps, these apps must find easier ways to earn revenues and so they monetize the way businesses interface with users of app – which includes access to your data for customer conversion:


Marissa Longsworth

“Even though we put a lot of trust with Facebook or WhatsApp when we sign these contracts with them when we click that I agree button, we are almost giving them permission to almost sub-license out our data on trusted terms with those third parties who we don’t have contact with.   The intention of course for WhatsApp and Facebook is to use that data for advertising. They don’t, and they claim, their privacy policy supports that they are not interested in Marissa Longsworth as a person. What they are interested in is how many hours does Marissa Longsworth spend on Facebook; how many businesses does Marissa Longsworth interact with? Is she on Facebook more for commercial reasons or is she on Facebook more for personal reasons?”


But if you don’t feel comfortable using the app under this new privacy policy, what are your options? There are at least two other messaging platforms at the forefront of the end-to-end encryption service. They are signal and telegram – but should you go ahead and make the switch?


Marissa Longsworth

“Whether this can happen to Signal or Telegram in the future, I think it very well can. What is happening now with WhatsApp is as a result of the growth of WhatsApp. WhatsApp started out as a fledgling messenger service and it grew so big to the point that a bigger company took it over to integrate all the apps together. Signal and Telegram could have the same fate at some point in time. It is just a matter of commercialization if you ask me.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


The European Union and the United Kingdom are the only two jurisdictions exempted from this updated privacy policy on WhatsApp. Their special privacy protection rules and laws carry hefty multi-million dollar fines that these multi-billion dollar companies have refrained from taking on.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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