Whats(App) the fuss about??

So, there have been calls now to ban WhatsApp in india. Few of my friends already moved to other messenger platforms and Reason, Newly updated WhatsApp policy. They said that it infringes to Users privacy as new policy sees sharing more user data to parent Facebook. Obviously, I am too concern about my Privacy and started reading the stuff around this news.

Till now, I have not been asked to “Agree” on new policy. Fortunately, My privacy terms are last updated on per 20-07-2020. It gave me an opportunity to compare and see what has been changed and why such efflux of WhatsApp users!

Lets check what all being collected by WhatsApp in old policy.

Your Account Information, Your Messages, Your Connections, Customer Support,

Automatically Collected information(Usage and Log Information, Transactional Information, Device and Connection Information, Cookies, Status Information)

Third-Party Information(Information others Provide About You, Third-Party Providers, Third-Party Services)

Here, The third-party providers are the one help WhatsApp to improve their design, experience, service etc. The third-party services are services like gif we search and share as WhatsApp message, Google cloud where backup is stored etc.

I compared all with new policy and found pretty-much same data collection information present there except expanding “Transactional Information” to “Transactions And Payments Data”. This looks more related to WhatsApp Pay related data collection.

Now, lets see What were the past terms of using our data.

They include, Our services,Safety and Security,Communications About Our Services and the Facebook Family of Companies,No Third-Party Banner Ads,Commercial Messaging, Under Information You and We Share (Account Information,Your Contancts and Others,Third-Party Providers,Third-Party Services)

Now, “Commercial Message” is changed to “Business Interactions” but most wordings are same. “Integrity” is added to “Safety and Security”.

Till now, nothing concerning has emerged. Lets see the next section.

In Old policy, There was mention of “Affiliated Companies” and In new policy, “How We Work With Other Facebook Companies”. One notable difference which says, “allowing you to connect your Facebook Pay account to pay for things on WhatsApp or enabling you to chat with your friends on other Facebook Company Products, such as Portal, by connecting your WhatsApp account.”

This again looks like they are trying to integrate WhatsApp (WhatsApp Pay in particular) to facebook/facebook products. This makes sense where user’s buying based pattern are known to them and thus appropriate advertisement on facebook products.

Remaining other things in the privacy declaration looks usual and nothing much to notice.

However, I would like to emphasis on one thing here. Below is screenshot taken from old policy.

As you read about user messages, those are still encrypted and not read either by WhatsApp or third parties. Same found mentions in new policy as well as below.

“We offer end-to-end encryption for our Services. End-to-end encryption means that your messages are encrypted to protect against us and third parties from reading them. Learn more about end-to-end encryption and how businesses communicate with you on WhatsApp.”

Few interesting stuff,

In old policy, “Facebook” word used around 17 times whereas in new, it is 34 times. “Payment” word was mentioned 4 times in old policy whereas in new policy, it has 10 times mentions. “Facebook Company” was not present in old policy whereas in policy, there were 29 times mention of “Facebook Company”
So, By looking at the declaration in policy change, I find, new policy is further deeper integration of WhatsApp with Facebook and its subsidiaries and New Pay service related data exchanges. User’s personal chat, group chat or other information as “safe” as it was before.

Question is, Whether sharing our WhatsApp Pay data with Facebook is concern or not? Not much. Below are few reasons.

WhatsApp Pay in india is UPI based payment service and bound to government rules and regulations. So, any government rules easily overrule terms put up by WhatsApp Pay.

2nd is, I looked at Google Pay, See snippet from Google Pay privacy terms.

Here, Google Pay also mentions it will share its data with other Google affiliates. However they provide choice for opt out of this. Similarly, WhatsApp too seeking share its data with its parent company and its affiliates.

So, That is as per competitive norms of business (WhatsApp is certainly big challenge to Google Pay, Phone Pe etc.). Both Google and Facebook’s high portion of revenue comes from digital advertisements. With having Pay pattern of users under their analytics tools would certainly make them to target potential buyers and thus more money.

And How about Signal? I work for open source software company and Signal being open source messaging App, i am all in for Signal. However, Signal runs over donation money and having User base of WhatsApp is certainly challenge at infrastructure level for Signal.

Now, What you think about this new change? Is it concerning as it was few days ago? Share with me your thoughts. I will discuss in my next blog about potential mid path between Privacy concern of Users and revenue concerns of companies.

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