WhatsApp uses Status Updates to ease user worries over privacy

Posted:
in iOS
WhatsApp is attempting to appease users who are considering migrating away from the Facebook-owned service over privacy policy changes, by using its Status feature to remind users it cannot read their encrypted conversations.




Users of WhatsApp were spooked by a proposed change to a privacy policy, intended to update how business chat logs are stored so they can be kept on Facebook servers. The policy change led to a wave of users believing it was a grab for personal data by Facebook, which then led to a mass exodus of users onto other privacy-focused services.

So far, WhatsApp has posted on social media and its website clarifying the policy, as well as insisting the conversations of users are kept private by end-to-end encryption, preventing it and Facebook from seeing or hearing the content, and delaying the implementation of the policy. On Saturday, it went one step further.

WhatsApp started to post Status updates, a feature similar to Stories offered by services like Instagram and Snapchat, about the app's privacy, reports The Verge. The messages, received by a considerable number of users, reiterated points about its inability to "read or listen to your personal conversations" due to the use of end-to-end encryption.




"There's been a lot of misinformation and confusion around our recent update and we want to help everyone understand the facts behind how WhatsApp protects people's privacy and security," a WhatsApp spokesperson explained. "Going forward, we're going to provide updates to people in the Status tab so people hear from WhatsApp directly."

It remains to be seen if the privacy effort will help prevent the scores of users looking to other services that also provide end-to-end encryption, but without the connection to Facebook.

Apps like Telegram and Signal have become beneficiaries of switching users, with Signal enduring a lengthy downtime as it expanded capacity to cope with the "millions of new Signal users."

This is not the only privacy issue WhatsApp has dealt with. In December, it claimed Apple's privacy nutrition labels were anticompetitive, as preinstalled apps like iMessage weren't subject to the same policy.

In November, WhatsApp warned users that its disappearing messages feature couldn't guarantee the messages won't exist in some form after it leaves the conversation. As well as obvious situations such as screenshots, the messages could hang around in different forms, including user backups and media saved to a phone.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 7
    The damage is done. Most of my friends and myself already switched to Signal. 

    If there is one thing about Facebook that can’t be trust, it is their promise. When they first bought WhatsApp, they promised the sky. Now see what happened. 
    chasmcaladanianctuttlinuxhead64williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 7
    mejsricmejsric Posts: 149member
    whats whatsapp?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 7
    I spent 60 seconds reading through the technical details of the paper ("WhatsApp Encryption Overview"), which you can find in the links in the article. My first impression is that the paper passes my sniff test. But I'm not good enough to accurately evaluate the encryption algorithm or key exchange algorithms. The key lengths and algorithms used both appear adequate even though I'm not an expert at this subject.

    But I still don't have a comfy feeling about the overall situation. Encryption only protects the data in transit, not the data at rest in your device, such as your contacts. WhatsApp says they don't send your Contacts to Facebook and I guess I believe that, but there's so much more data! The fact that they DIDN'T say, "We send absolutely NOTHING to FaceBook, ever" makes me wonder why they didn't say that. Indeed, they SAID if you click on FaceBook ads in their app then some data does get sent to FaceBook, but what? Probably at least an identifier which tells them exactly who you are.

    I don't feel it's a crime to track people on the Internet, at least not yet. So I don't feel that they are breaking any law. At least in most free countries there are laws preventing the STATE from tracking its own citizens. Even if you don't like CORPORATIONS tracking you without limit, at least you can be happy that the STATE doesn't. Let's talk about limiting what private companies can track. Maybe the law should change.

    I think there are laws in the US regarding minimum ages that corporations can track. Just a thought: why don't you change your profile in WhatsApp or FaceBook and tell them you are 12 years old? Even if you are 62. That may trigger some restrictions on what their software can do to track you. Hey, I don't think it's a crime to lie about your age to another person or company. In fact, why not lie about everything? Weight, height, gender, age, ethnicity, language, religion, etc.?
    viclauyycmejsricwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 7
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,391member
    mejsric said:
    whats whatsapp?
    Nothing you need concern yourself with. It was a competitor to FaceBook Messanger that FB bought to gather data on its users and prevent a non-FB company from being able to successfully compete. Everyone who used WhatsApp in order to avoid having to use FB or its Messenger app ended up being FB data-mining fodder anyway.

    And make no mistake: despite the assurances WhatsApp is giving its users, they are still being harvested for ad data and person information. Even if you believe that WhatsApp encrypts the conversations/phone calls (and despite the fact that Rule 1 of Facebook is that Zuckerberg lies, I'm happy to take that assurance at its word) -- you'll notice the happy talk status says nothing about the metadata (who you messaged, where they are, for how long, etc) or the more general information it can collect to make connections for advertising and other data-mining (you're texting/calling people in China -> show ads that target that demographic, etc).

    The policy "change" announcement that started all this was in fact a notification that FB reneged on its promise to keep WhatsApp data separate from FB data **several years ago**, but they only just now got around to updating the TOS. Facebook is manipulative and greedy -- they will miss no opportunity to stalk you and your online behaviour. As for their pledge about user privacy -- you may have noticed that the FBI (et al) have never tried to drag Facebook (Google, Twitter, et al) to court (or the court of legislative scare tactics) for withholding information about criminal activity/conversation the way they have Apple.

    Draw your own conclusions about that.


    edited January 31 caladanianctuttmejsricwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 7
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,391member

    Encryption only protects the data in transit, not the data at rest in your device, such as your contacts. WhatsApp says they don't send your Contacts to Facebook and I guess I believe that, but there's so much more data! The fact that they DIDN'T say, "We send absolutely NOTHING to FaceBook, ever" makes me wonder why they didn't say that. Indeed, they SAID if you click on FaceBook ads in their app then some data does get sent to FaceBook, but what? Probably at least an identifier which tells them exactly who you are.

    I don't feel it's a crime to track people on the Internet, at least not yet. So I don't feel that they are breaking any law. ... Let's talk about limiting what private companies can track. Maybe the law should change.

    I think there are laws in the US regarding minimum ages that corporations can track. Just a thought: why don't you change your profile in WhatsApp or FaceBook and tell them you are 12 years old? Even if you are 62. That may trigger some restrictions on what their software can do to track you. Hey, I don't think it's a crime to lie about your age to another person or company. In fact, why not lie about everything? Weight, height, gender, age, ethnicity, language, religion, etc.?
    My view on webstalking is that if you wouldn't allow an abusive ex to have certain kinds of information about you, it shouldn't be legal for companies to collect that information surreptitiously (and then profit by selling it to your abusive ex).

    Your idea about changing your profile on social media won't work -- for a start, FB/WA/Google/Twitter et al won't give you an account if you claim you're 12. Also, given that once you have an account you have agreed to let them spy on your every move on their sites and beyond, it would take them two seconds to determine that the information you filled in is false, and target ads at your real status. Remember, they don't just gather data -- they put it together into a profile. They correlate, analyze, draw conclusions, and essentially stalk you the way an assassin would about every aspect of your life.

    If you wouldn't let another person do this with continuous and explicit permission-granting, why would you let a non-person corporation engage in this type of behaviour?
    muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 7
    I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts for this and other reasons. Social media has become a disease in our society. I hope that it can be stamped out in the future.
    williamlondondewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 7
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 2,511member
    chasm said:

    Encryption only protects the data in transit, not the data at rest in your device, such as your contacts. WhatsApp says they don't send your Contacts to Facebook and I guess I believe that, but there's so much more data! The fact that they DIDN'T say, "We send absolutely NOTHING to FaceBook, ever" makes me wonder why they didn't say that. Indeed, they SAID if you click on FaceBook ads in their app then some data does get sent to FaceBook, but what? Probably at least an identifier which tells them exactly who you are.

    I don't feel it's a crime to track people on the Internet, at least not yet. So I don't feel that they are breaking any law. ... Let's talk about limiting what private companies can track. Maybe the law should change.

    I think there are laws in the US regarding minimum ages that corporations can track. Just a thought: why don't you change your profile in WhatsApp or FaceBook and tell them you are 12 years old? Even if you are 62. That may trigger some restrictions on what their software can do to track you. Hey, I don't think it's a crime to lie about your age to another person or company. In fact, why not lie about everything? Weight, height, gender, age, ethnicity, language, religion, etc.?
    My view on webstalking is that if you wouldn't allow an abusive ex to have certain kinds of information about you, it shouldn't be legal for companies to collect that information surreptitiously (and then profit by selling it to your abusive ex).

    Your idea about changing your profile on social media won't work -- for a start, FB/WA/Google/Twitter et al won't give you an account if you claim you're 12. Also, given that once you have an account you have agreed to let them spy on your every move on their sites and beyond, it would take them two seconds to determine that the information you filled in is false, and target ads at your real status. Remember, they don't just gather data -- they put it together into a profile. They correlate, analyze, draw conclusions, and essentially stalk you the way an assassin would about every aspect of your life.

    If you wouldn't let another person do this with continuous and explicit permission-granting, why would you let a non-person corporation engage in this type of behaviour?
    That's a fair point, but if FaceBook had a reliable way to tell whether the data you enter about yourself is true or false, then they probably wouldn't have announced that they take down about 700 million fake accounts every three months:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/30/technology/facebook-fake-accounts.html

    And I would like to note that FaceBook wants the minimum age requirement of 13 to be completely removed so that ANYONE  of ANY AGE can use FaceBook:
    https://www.zdnet.com/article/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-minimum-age-limit-should-be-removed/

    watto_cobra
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