Let’s face it, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are the old world of mobile connectivity. A new fleet of apps is taking their place.
WhatsApp’s update of its terms of service agreement appears to give users little choice to opt out of sharing data with parent company Facebook. When WhatsApp promised initial users a privacy focused user-experience, it’s the ultimate Silicon Valley betrayal and Facebook has become not only a toxic place but a serious privacy concern for many users.
So who are the beneficiaries? Downloads of privacy-focused messaging apps Signal and Telegram got a boost as users looked for alternatives to Facebook-owned WhatsApp. Telegram has a weird new “near me” feature that seems pretty sketchy with regards to privacy, but it’s opt-in, and seems to be nearly a good idea during the pandemic.
Signal claims to have “state-of-the-art end-to-end encryption” as part of its service, which prevents messages from being read by those who are not the intended recipient. Signal is that Elon Musk touted product that journalists have been using for years. When WhatsApp and WeChat fail, there’s always another app. WhatsApp doesn’t really offer anything original or better than these other apps.
WhatsApp is now reserving the right to share data it collects about you with the broader Facebook network, which includes Instagram, regardless of whether you have accounts or profiles there. That’s not a Silicon Valley world I’d want to opt in to.
Twitter moderates its platform selectively, without a good safety mechanism (not as bad as Reddit though). These are old apps and younger more innovative apps need to take their place like Snapchat and TikTok. Even Discord offers me a better experience than Facebook Groups.
WhatsApp is a failure in keeping to its original spirit. The world’s leading messaging platform claims security and privacy are in its DNA, but it is owned by the world’s most avaricious data harvesting machine. I want nothing to do with the Facebook ecosystem in 2021 so far as I can possibly help it.
Users need to think if social media is really benefiting them in an era of social isolation. WhatsApp, like Twitter, has hardly improved in the last five years. Starting Feb. 8, users will be prompted in the app to accept the updated terms in order to continue using WhatsApp. Facebook never explains its privacy terms properly. WhatsApp collects a lot of other data which can be shared with its parent company. This forced sharing with the mother company is sketchy as all hell.
When mainstream social media becomes a censorship policing of content, it’s time to think that our privacy rights aren’t the only thing being abused. Laws and regulations have yet to catch up with the internet in 2021, and our mental health is also not being protected. Political content should be banned from social media, the era of the town square media company pretending to be just a cute app is over.
Why would I choose WhatsApp that belongs to a company that has abused users and freedom for profit? Because of the white space of the product? Privacy, free speech and online freedom matter. Meanwhile even their terms of service aren’t clear and are moderated only selectively.
WhatsApp isn’t a great digital experience, but it is a great data harvesting tool and comms gimmick.