CEO's Corner

The Peril in WhatsApp’s Porous Privacy Policies

Anurag Lal Anurag Lal, President and CEO of Infinite Convergence.

According to recent reports, WhatsApp is giving users the option to reject the new privacy policy the company announced earlier this year. However, users will have to accept the new policy when they choose to communicate with businesses. This news is just the latest in a series of WhatsApp miscues that shine a spotlight on its porous privacy policies. Policies that allow the company to collect and share user data – a practice that continues to put user privacy in peril.

WhatsApp announced changes to the company’s privacy policy earlier this year which sparked a backlash among consumers, governments and privacy advocates. The company delayed the privacy policy amid the uproar which included the Indian government requesting the withdrawal of proposed changes to the privacy policy for users in the country and Germany temporarily banning Facebook from processing WhatsApp user data granted under the mandatory update to WhatsApp’s terms of service.

WhatsApp’s privacy policies also recently put the company in hot water with Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC). The DPC fined Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service nearly $270 million for not being transparent about how it uses data collected. The ruling noted that WhatsApp did not meet its “transparency obligations” to make clear disclosures about the processing of information between it and other Facebook companies.

WhatsApp’s porous privacy policies don’t deliver on Facebook’s assurances that it would keep data private when the company bought WhatsApp in 2014. In 2016, just two years later WhatsApp disclosed the company would begin sharing user data with Facebook in a move to generate revenue.

A recent ProPublica article noted that “the privacy page for WhatsApp assures users that they have total control over their own metadata. It says users can ‘decide if only contacts, everyone, or nobody can see your profile photo’ or when they last opened their status updates or when they last opened the app. Regardless of the settings a user chooses, WhatsApp collects and analyzes all of that data — a fact not mentioned anywhere on the page.”

As WhatsApp continues to be the target of security and privacy issues, the company is hoping to reassure users by launching a 'Message Privately' global campaign to underscore its commitment to privacy and provide further clarity about how privacy and security works on the platform.

No ad campaign can change the fact that WhatsApp is simply not committed to privacy. Nothing about collecting, sharing and analyzing user data describes privacy. Just the opposite. It puts users in peril of having their data exposed.

NetSfere’s privacy policy is airtight. We don’t collect or share any data. When there is no data collected, privacy is assured.