And there’s trouble with WhatsApp again – this time it’s about the much-criticized new terms and conditions. I ask myself: Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? The simplest solution is to simply turn our backs on WhatsApp and switch to more secure alternatives.
As of last Saturday, May 15, 2021, WhatsApp has new terms and conditions in place. Officially, WhatsApp affirms that there will be no extended data transfer to Facebook and that the update only serves to better connect companies with potential customers.
In a statement, WhatsApp says it handles private chats differently than contact with businesses, “When you communicate with a business via phone, email or WhatsApp, they may use the information from those interactions with you for their own marketing purposes. This may include advertising on Facebook.”
No more backups: T&C refusers gradually lose features
WhatsApp clarified in a blog post that no account would be deleted should one not accept the new T&Cs. But that is not the end of the story. If you don’t accept the new terms and conditions, you will actually lose functionality. In the coming weeks, you will no longer be able to access the chat list. You will be able to accept video and voice calls, but you will only be able to reply to text messages if you have enabled notifications.
If the consent is still missing after a few weeks, the account could still be deleted. After all, WhatsApp deletes inactive profiles after 120 days – and that’s exactly what we are if we can’t get into the chat list. Too bad.
However, first users reported further restrictions in the past few days. For example, the users who refuse to accept the terms and conditions now do not have the option of uploading chat backups to the cloud. To talk here about wanting the best for users is, in my opinion, simply lying.
“New conditions show significant contradictions”
Many data protection experts see it the same way. Among them is Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg data protection commissioner. If it’s up to him, the new terms and conditions “show considerable contradictions” and are “unclear and difficult to distinguish”. According to Caspar, after a detailed analysis, it is not clear what the consequences of the update are – however, the connection between WhatsApp and Facebook will probably be further expanded, among other things for advertising purposes.
A WhatsApp spokesperson countered in a statement to AFP that it was a “misunderstanding without legal basis” and that they themselves only wanted to “create transparency about data collection and use.”
As a user, the question arises as to whom I can believe here: many independent data protection experts who are genuinely concerned about protecting the privacy of Internet users, or one of the world’s largest media corporations, which is in the headlines virtually every year with data mishaps, data abuse cases and other affairs? For me, the answer here is very clear.
Secure and available for everyone: WhatsApp alternatives are plentiful!
I keep asking myself how much longer we want to put up with this. Again and again, the Facebook group, to which WhatsApp belongs, “shocks” us with new reports of data problems. A repeat offender, so to speak, that we keep giving a chance. Why? Out of habit, perhaps. Or because our data isn’t that important to us after all? If you look at the controversy surrounding the Corona warning app, you would think that we do care about our private data.
In any case, it can’t be the lack of alternatives that’s holding us back. There are several contenders for the Messenger throne on the market. And no, I don’t mean Telegram, even though the service is ahead of WhatsApp in some respects. But the latter scores more with exciting features and a large user base than with better security. You can read more about it here.
No, I’m talking about alternatives like Threema or Signal, real contenders for the title of best messenger. Both are open-source, preset end-to-end encryption, and don’t even require your cell phone number. Threema’s servers are also located in Switzerland. So the user can assume the highest level of security. However, the number of users is still manageable and the service costs around four euros – a small price to pay for secure data.
Signal, on the other hand, is the free alternative with more users and an equally secure protocol. Even Elon Musk and Edward Snowden publicly recommend the service on their social media. The servers are not located in Switzerland, but the source code is just as open and has been found to be secure by independent experts. Currently (as of May 20, 2021), the messenger is even number 1 in the entire Play Store charts. So is a rethink finally taking place? It would be desirable, because I don’t want to see any more scandals and data protection mishaps from the market leader from Zuckerberg.