Security concern leads WhatsApp users to other social media platforms

by | Jan 29, 2021 | Biz/Tech

People are wondering what’s up with WhatsApp.

A new privacy policy on the popular messaging application is worrying users that their personal information would be shared, so some are abandoning it for alternative applications, such as Signal or Telegram.

WhatsApp has been experiencing an exodus of users, considered the largest in its history. The company’s new terms of service announced on Jan. 6 backfired and has cost almost eight million active users because of personal privacy concerns.

“The users will give consent to share their activity information, which is called metadata, through which people will give up their identifying information on the data they produce and consume in the virtual world,” Tansu Kacmaz, a Turkish lawyer residing in Canada, said.

“They cannot see our messages, but they can pull the background information from it. This is what we will be giving the consent for,” she said.

The new regulation makes users’ phone numbers, profile names, photos and even messages available to Facebook, the parent company of WhatsApp. The information would also allow businesses to connect with users.

If users do not sign the agreement by May 15, they cannot continue using the app.

The app’s new policy also secures the company from any possible lawsuits. Based on the new conditions, if the users accept the policy, they cannot sue WhatsApp for their rights of privacy and publicity. Resolution would have to be reached by arbitration.

“I watched a documentary recently and it said, ‘If a product is free, you become the product. They make a profit out of you,'” Kacmaz said. “WhatsApp will ask us about the policy change in a few months. We either give our consent and be the “product” or we can switch to some other ‘safer’ options.”

Signal and Telegram applications are considered safer than WhatsApp. Signal does not store users` chat history, while WhatsApp saves chats on cloud technology. Users are not allowed to bypass this default automatic storage mechanism.

Telegram users can save their message content by archiving automated chat history storage via the “secret chat” button.

“With this contract, we will know that when we are talking with someone it can record or read by a third one,” said Betul Arslan, a material engineer who switched from WhatsApp to Telegram. “That is why I prefer to use Telegram instead of WhatsApp because Telegram seems safer.”

Another user Harun Saglam no longer trusts WhatsApp and switched to Signal.

“According to the news I read and researched, Signal is the most satisfying application in terms of privacy. So, I downloaded Signal,” Saglam said.

Kacmaz said Signal seems to care more about ethical and privacy concerns.

The non-profit app is currently being used by journalists and activists and found to be more reliable than other chat apps. Based on the data from Apptopia on Jan. 6, after the WhatsApp policy was announced, 7.5 million users downloaded Signal across the world.

Saglam, who has been using the three applications said, “if my contact list starts to discover Signal and move there, I can only go on with Signal.”

WhatsApp LLC, however, provided an exception to European Region. The new `Terms of Service and Privacy Policy` notification that enforce users to share data with Facebook companies was not sent to European users’ devices.

European users, however, will get updated terms of service that won’t include sharing data with Facebook.

“The first detail that catches my attention is that the European Union is excluded from this scope,” Saglam said, wondering why the North American policy doesn’t apply to EU member states. “Why this discrimination?”

WhatsApp Ireland Limited, which operates the company’s Europe and U.K. services, did not make any change to the data privacy policy while WhatsApp Inc. pushed the policy change notification in Canada and the U.S.

The reason for this significant difference between European and American countries arises from the different approaches to data privacy in the two continents.