Trying to remove conspiracy theses, rumors, and wrong assumptions, from an independent blogger and without any personal or economic interest in the use of an application or another, then I want to make the point of the situation clear, to give a photograph of the current state about the Whatsapp privacy, of personal data that Whatsapp collects, can see and use, of the relations between Whatsapp and Facebook, of the comparison between Whatsapp and other similar apps such as Signal or Telegram.
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What changes in Whatsapp data processing
The information lists the data that Whatsapp collects and needs for its operation and it is, first of all, important to note that the chats, conversations with friends are not and cannot be read by those who manage Whatsapp and, of course, not even from Facebook. Messages on Whatsapp are end-to-end encrypted, so they can only be read by those who send them and those who receive them, and no one else in the middle (therefore even those who manage Whatsapp servers) can decrypt and read them. The data that Whatsapp automatically collects on users, and this has been doing it for years now, are above all those of the location, that is, Whatsapp always knows where we are and the phone book of the phone, which is used as a Whatsapp address book. In addition, there are also reports of violations and interactions with commercial activities.
The most interesting part of the Whatsapp privacy update is the final one, where the relationship with Facebook is explained. Since many have worried that Whatsapp data could be taken and crossed with the social network Facebook, it is important to clarify that in European countries, including Italy, at present, there is no Whatsapp data sharing with Facebook. This is true today and will be true tomorrow as well unless Facebook gets permission from the European authority.
The latest update serves to clarify the position of Whatsapp within Facebook as required by the European GDPR regulation. It is then explained how companies can use WhatsApp Business to connect with customers and communicate with users using a service provided by Facebook. Basically, if you use Whatsapp to chat with friends and family, nothing changes.
However, it is true that users have until February 8, 2021, to accept the new changes and will not be able to use the application without doing so.
It should also be noted that WhatsApp has just put in writing what he’s been sharing with Facebook since 2016. In 2016, in fact, a notification similar to that of 2021 appeared on Whatsapp, with the only difference that it was possible to refuse the integration with Facebook and that Whatsapp still guaranteed the service for 5 years. After 5 years, in 2021, integration with Facebook has become mandatory. Those who had already accepted the notification 5 years earlier, in 2016, had already accepted the privacy terms of Whatsapp as part of Facebook.
All personal data that are shared with Whatsapp and, in part, also with Facebook, can be easily discovered as explained in the guide to Whatsapp privacy control, usage data, and shared account info.
What data does the Whatsapp app collect and request on the smartphone?
Once it is clear that Whatsapp does not share user data with Facebook, it may be interesting to understand which data it collects specifically. Today there are many tables online about this, which are above all on the merciless comparison, in terms of respect for user privacy, between Whatsapp and Signal. Whatsapp collects a lot of data about users, Signal none.
Whatsapp stores and collects the following data: Profile picture, status, location, and phone number. However, these data are not shared or crossed with Facebook.
We repeat again, however, that Whatsapp at no time can read end-to-end encrypted sent and received messages, and neither can Facebook. To clarify this aspect, the head of Whatsapp also intervened with a long tweet, and also the Whatsapp Twitter account has published a very clear example table which is also explained in a FAQ page. At this point, we can believe what we want, even that the bosses of Whatsapp are lying publicly, and that it is a sensational scam, but there is no evidence to support this hypothesis.
Instead, the relationship with the companies on Facebook has changed and they will have the ability to set up WhatsApp chats with customers to ask to respond to surveys or to send receipts or even to view their store products for sale directly on WhatsApp. If you then send a message to a company listed on Facebook via WhatsApp, our data (mainly the phone number) could be shared with Facebook to personalize advertisements.
Privacy comparison between Whatsapp, Telegram and Signal
Having clarified that we have nothing to fear from the change in the processing of personal data, it certainly cannot be denied that Whatsapp is a very intrusive app. This can be imagined since it is part of Facebook, undoubtedly the worst company in the world in terms of privacy.
- The data collected by WhatsApp I’m Device ID, Usage data (for advertising), Shopping, Position, contact info, User Content, Identifiers, Diagnostics, Other minor content.
- The data collected by Telegram I’m contact info, Contacts, Identifier (user ID), the only downside to Telegram is that it only enables end-to-end encryption in secret chats.
- The signal does not collect any data on its users.
If therefore, one were not happy, the alternative a Whatsapp per message are there is no shortage and while Telegram is even better than Whatsapp in terms of functionality, Signal, with secret and untraceable chats, is number one if you want to keep your conversations private and as confidential as possible.
However, choosing between WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal are not at all simple, not because the alternatives are inferior or more complicated, but because of an established habit that is difficult to beat today. Even if you want the best app (Telegram) or the app that offers more protection of personal data (Signal), you will then have to convince friends and relatives to give up Whatsapp and the business will be even more difficult with older people who know use only WhatsApp.
As I see it, more than Whatsapp, perhaps it would be better to abandon Facebook.