Busting WhatsApp's New Privacy Policy Myths

Let's understand the new privacy policy from a programmer's perspective.

So, WhatsApp has recently updated their privacy policy and I can feel a sense of panic amongst us because of that, because we have a really important decision to make here whether to keep using WhatsApp or switch to an alternative like Signal, etc.

So being a person who works in the field of computer science and technology, I feel it's my duty to give you a programmer's perspective on how these updated policies will affect your privacy, so that you can make an informed decision. I will conclude this article by telling you what my decision will be? Whether I'm going to stay with WhatsApp or not.

Truth be told.

Myth #1: Facebook can see your chats and the media that you send out or receive on WhatsApp.

Yes, WhatsApp does store your messages on their servers, but only until they are delivered. Once your messages are delivered they are completely deleted from their servers, moreover, even the undelivered messages that WhatsApp stores on their servers are kept for 30 days. However, they’re deleted after 30 days albeit still undelivered.

Now, let's talk about the media files, for example the photos, videos, pdf docs, etc. that you send out or receive on WhatsApp. Now, that’s just temporary as well, and they only do it to make the additional forwarding of your media more efficient.

Moreover, the messages that WhatsApp stores on their servers are not in the raw form they're end-to-end encrypted. Now, what that means is, your messages cannot be read by WhatsApp or any other third parties that they work with.

Myth #2: WhatsApp will start showing ads

There's many speculations going on that since WhatsApp wants us to share our data with them, they will use this data for targeted marketing and they’re going to introduce ads on their platform. That's not true(at least for now)!!! WhatsApp has clearly mentioned in their updated privacy policy that they have no intention of introducing third-party banner ads as of now, but if they do they're going to update their privacy policy once again.

What data will be collected?

So, now the question is, If WhatsApp is not interested in our chats and our media, what exactly do they want us to share with them?

WhatsApp will collect the following data:

1) Device Specific Information, the kind of OS you use(Android, IOS, or any other operating system), the versions of applications that you use on your phone, etc.

2) Location Information, or the locations that other people have shared with you.

3) Usage and Log Information, how you interact with other people, the frequency and duration of your interactions.

For further details, follow the link provided below to read the complete list of data they collect, https://www.whatsapp.com/legal/updates/privacy-policy/?lang=en

Now the bigger question is, Why do they need to collect this kind of data?, and I think we already know the answer to this one! Yes, it's for Targeted Advertisements. WhatsApp will collaborate with third-party services to show you ads(on various platforms) based on your interests.

Well now, if you think WhatsApp or to be specific, its parent company, Facebook is the devil today, I hate to break it to you, but Google has been doing the very same thing since a very long time! Shocked?! So, you think whenever you open YouTube the advertisements you see right in front of you are just there by chance? If yes, you can’t be more wrong!!! Here, take a look!

We should understand that as a consumer, we either pay for a product or we are the product. Let me give you a very simple example, you see advertisements on YouTube because it's free, but you don't see advertisements on Netflix because you pay for it.

A company needs to make money to run smoothly. Now, either we(the consumers) can pay them for using the services they provide, or they turn to these advertisement companies to make money.

My decision.

Coming to how I feel about all this. My personal preference is to keep on using WhatsApp for communications as long as it's free. I would much rather watch ads than paying for each and every service we use over the Internet. Personally, I don't mind seeing advertisements because ads have been a part of our daily internet lives since its inception. If anything, I would much appreciate if these advertisements are exclusively crafted keeping my interests in mind.

I disagree with Mr. Musk.

As, who's to say that Signal won't do the exact same thing, two years down the line, perhaps in order to stay in business and to survive the competition!

I hope this article would help you in making an informed decision. My goal here is to stop you from being influenced either by me or anyone else out there(even the big headings you read in the news). Thanks for reading!