“WhatsApp was built on a simple idea: what you share with your friends and family stays between you. This means we will always protect your personal conversations with end-to-end encryption, so that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see these private messages. It’s why we don’t keep logs of who everyone’s messaging or calling. We also can’t see your shared location and we don’t share your contacts with Facebook,” it said in a blog post, and added: “This update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook.”
This, coupled with Signal’s issues which lasted more than a day before being fully resolved, might have people thinking that they can go back to WhatsApp — it remains a very reliable service, and the company showed that it’ll listen to the users, right?
The fact is that WhatsApp already shares a lot of information with Facebook. When it said that the update doesn’t expand the ability to share data with Facebook, that’s because it has been able to share your data for years now.
That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a lot of disinformation flowing over the last one week. If you’re the kind of person who was already on Signal, then you’ve probably been asked several times a day about whether people should switch app. And you’ve also probably been asked, “is WhatsApp reading my groups and messages?” And the simple answer is no, your messages aren’t being read (unless you’re the target of something like the Pegasus hack, or someone has access to your phone, or has access to your backups on the cloud… there will always be some exceptions). WhatsApp uses the same end-to-end encryption that Signal does, and unlike Telegram, WhatsApp turns E2E on by default in all chats, whereas you have to initiate a secret chat in Telegram.
But a lot of the other factors that people got quite worried about, have always been the case. An image that went viral shows the App Store privacy labels that tell you what information an app is collecting. While Signal collects no data linked to you, WhatsApp is looking at your purchases, financial information, location, contact information, contacts, content, identifiers, usage data, and diagnostics.
This is something that has not changed even though WhatsApp has changed its mind about enforcing its policies right away. If you were worried that Mark Zuckerberg is looking at your messages then that wasn’t going to happen anyway.
In India, the government has been discussing a Data Protection law for several years — after many false starts, a Data Protection Bill was proposed more than a year ago, but has not proceeded further. Last month, BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar said the joint parliamentary committee is going to redraw the bill, so this will take more time. If we want European protections, we will need European legislation first.