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The purpose of the change is explained in the new Terms of Service, which have also been largely updated. The new “Affiliated Companies” paragraph informs us that “WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, Facebook Companies” in part to “provide integrations that allow you to connect your WhatsApp experience with other Facebook Company Products.
Given WhatsApp’s absolute leadership in the field of instant messaging, a mass flight of its subscribers to other services is unlikely. On New Year’s Eve, for example, the platform carried more than 1.4 billion voice and video calls worldwide, the highest figure ever recorded for a single day, and an increase of around 50% compared to last year. It is therefore impossible that a significant proportion of its more than 2 billion total users would decide to stay out of communication with friends and family in protest.
The profit for the company will be twofold: on the one hand, it will come from the sale of ultra-targeted ads on Facebook, and on the other, it will receive a percentage of each transaction made on WhatsApp (on the model of what already happens with normal credit card payments).
WhatsApp has an incredibly large ‘network effect’ compared to its competitors, which guarantees it a very high level of loyalty from its user base. Because however much a messaging app may appeal to our taste, if we find few contacts on it, it will be almost completely useless.
The second in the ranking, Telegram, does not even have half as many. It is therefore easy to understand how unlikely it is, to say the least, that a significant proportion of users would decide to abandon the main network simply in protest against the new terms. All the more so if, as is always the case in these cases, authorisation is all too often given without even going into the details of the notice. Knowing the main alternatives to WhatsApp available in digital stores, however, can always be useful.
Telegram is the second most popular messaging App. Launched in 2013 by brothers Nikolaj and Pavel Durov and partially open source, like WhatsApp it is completely free. However, it does not rely on the memory of users’ devices to store data, but uses a cloud with instant synchronisation. This allows it to be used on multiple devices and to send an unlimited amount of content (up to 2 gigs each) for maximum versatility.
It is also important to emphasise that access to the service does not require the display of a telephone number: a great advantage in terms of confidentiality.
There are two types of chat: classic (with client-server encryption) and secret (with end-to-end encryption). The former can be viewed on all devices, while the latter – more secure – can only be viewed on the device from which they were initiated. The latter include the possibility of sending messages that self-destruct.
The absolute security of conversations is the strength of Signal, a free and open source software managed by a non-profit foundation. In addition to end-to-end encryption, Signal uses other state-of-the-art encryption protocols. Unlike both WhatsApp and Telegram, it also stores very little metadata (i.e. information about the date and time of sending and receiving conversations, of a call, of the last access to the app, and so on).
It is therefore not surprising that its main fans include the deep throat of “Datagate” Edward Snowden, Elon Musk and even the European Commission. Furthermore, you may use a Swiss Solution called Threema, used by the Swiss Army.
Existing but unusable account
In fact, the account will not be completely deactivated, but it will be impossible to do many things with the chat, including writing and receiving messages, so in practice WhatsApp will be unusable. In this way, the messaging App leaves users with no alternative: either they will accept the terms, or they will no longer be able to use it. In addition, 15 May is the last date available to download chat conversations to Android or iPhone devices.
What will change?
This article was written following the lines of Alessandro Vinci and Cecilia Mussi, journalists @Corriere Della Sera
My opinion is that the law of the biggest TechData market always win. Many users will think they can’t cope without it, others are too lazy to understand the context, other will have the usual wrong reasoning “I have nothing to hide“.
Finally, many users will think that migrating from one App to another might cause them “losses“… the usual fear of the unknown or, as usual, thinking that another application, especially an Open-Source one, is not comparable and does not do the job compared to the “Master”. Many people are still reticent.
“If I don’t use WhatsApp how can I communicate with my friends ? I What about my Groups? I use another App, not all my friends have it… following the basic reasoning: If I’m not visible on Google no one will find me, if a hotel is not visible on Booking no one will take reservations with me, etc. etc.” which is somehow true.
WhatsApp has an obligation to comply with the GDPR which stipulates acceptance of advertising, etc. The final user can manage these option into his smartphone or desktop settings in order to deactivate tracking, etc. This is already the case of many major Apps, many connected object (IoT) like smart tv for example (allow or not Google Analytics, etc.), as well in all major websites for the cookies policy compliance. Nevertheless, not all features can be deactivated and more data will be exchanged automatically with FB. The situation remains unclear.
You may migrate little by little on others Chats by keeping your WhatsApp contacts (by saving its contents and then deleting all your chat history), solicit your friends by spreading the word of other very well conceived Apps and finally use other NSA-FB non compatible Apps for sharing you private information and use WhatsApp only for non-private and non sensitive communications (especially if you have groups). Furthermore, with people migrating from one chat to another, Telegram & Signal are constantly improving their services.
Check out how to move Chat History from Other Apps
The business of intermediary platforms is getting bigger and bigger. Therefore, it would be good to have a numerical awareness to understand the Pros and Cons of each choice we make. If not, the licit monopoly in an ultra-liberal big-tech market where the sheep have no choice but to follow the “crowd” will always prevail.
What happens when you delete your WhatsApp account ?
They purely “hate you”… 🙁
- Listen to the RTS Digital Chronicle – Privacy (in French)
- Listen to the Les utilisateurs suisses face aux nouvelles conditions de WhatsApp (in French)
- Listen to the RSI news about Threema(in Italian)
R Lepori, PM/CTO @ARTELABS DIGITAL SERVICES.