Should we be scared?
by Analize Viljoen
There is a lot of talk about the new whatsapp setting that allows information sharing between Facebook and Whatsapp. Many people are sharing memes in a bit of a panic, urging everyone to adjust their settings. Is this concern valid, or is it fear mongering? That is not a question anyone but Whatsapp/Facebook can answer at this point, but there are a few points to consider:
One of the things that will be shared is your phone number that you use with Whatsapp.
Is that really a problem? Does FB already have your phone number? Facebook owns Whatsapp, so if your phone number is on the one they already have it. Why don’t you want to share it with the other? The only way to keep it completely private is by not sharing it on either one of the platforms. Of course, that is not possible if you want to use the platforms. You can’t use Whatsapp without a phone number and you can’t open a Facebook profile without one. You can choose to go to the extreme of not being part of the 21st century. Alternatively you can familiarise yourself with basic safety practices, implement them and enjoy the technology.
“Data” sharing does not mean your conversations and pictures are shared.
What the platforms share is basic metrics about how often people use these services. Also how and when we use them. Whatsapp states on their legal page: “Nothing you share on WhatsApp, including your messages, photos, and account information, will be shared onto Facebook or any of our other family of apps for others to see, and nothing you post on those apps will be shared on WhatsApp for others to see.”
Data they collect focuses on your interests, for ad targeting.
In fact, that seems to be the only thing you will control when you click the option not to share Whatsapp data with Facebook. Facebook is already showing you the adverts they think you should see. This new function probably does not mean that you will see more ads, only different ones, targeting your interests. In “Facebook and Whatsapp Want to Share your Data.”
What they aim to do with the data is the following:
“We will explore ways for you and businesses to communicate with each other using WhatsApp, such as through order, transaction, and appointment information, delivery and shipping notifications, product and service updates, and marketing. For example, you may receive flight status information for upcoming travel, a receipt for something you purchased, or a notification when a delivery will be made. Messages you may receive containing marketing could include an offer for something that might interest you. We do not want you to have a spammy experience; as with all of your messages, you can manage these communications, and we will honor the choices you make.”
Frankly, it sounds interesting and like a mere next step in the way we use technology to streamline our lives. Facebook and Whatsapp promise that you will have control over it so maybe it is worth a shot.
Whatsapp uses end-to-end encryption. Their blog tells us what it means:
“We’re also updating these documents to make clear that we’ve rolled out end-to-end encryption. When you and the people you message are using the latest version of WhatsApp, your messages are encrypted by default, which means you’re the only people who can read them. Even as we coordinate more with Facebook in the months ahead, your encrypted messages stay private and no one else can read them. Not WhatsApp, not Facebook, nor anyone else. We won’t post or share your WhatsApp number with others, including on Facebook, and we still won’t sell, share, or give your phone number to advertisers.”
Also note what is says on the Whatsapp’s legal page: “We’ve built privacy, end-to-end encryption, and other security features into WhatsApp. We don’t store your messages once they’ve been delivered. When they are end-to-end encrypted, we and third parties can’t read them.”
Whatsapp will remain free of third-party banner ads.
This leaves some room for interpretation. How do they define “banner ads” and does it mean that ads they don’t describe as “banner ads” will be displayed on Whatsapp? Will we have a way to control what we see?
Is there a copyright or intellectual property issue?
This is one aspect Whatsapp and Facebook have to clear up. Does the photo’s and information you share belong to them (as with Instagram), or to you?
So what should we do? Click agree or disable the function? Once you disable it, you can’t activate it again. Personally, I am going to wait and see, because there is always an outcry when new things happen on Facebook. Often by people who don’t really know what they are objecting to, and why.
Maybe I am naive, but Facebook, as an entity, has never violated my privacy, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt for now. I can always click that box later and disable the data sharing if I find a good reason to do it. My privacy settings are under my control and it is my own responsibility to keep them up to date. I live by a golden rule when it comes to social media: If you don’t want people to know or see something, don’t put it out on Facebook (or any social platform). It really is that simple.
Facebook and Whatsapp Want to Share your Data. Should we be scared?
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