/ Technology

Have you accepted WhatsApp’s new terms and conditions?

You might have noticed WhatsApp asking you to accept its new terms and conditions recently – are you on board, or are you considering switching away?

Do you use WhatsApp regularly? I use it a lot: my brother and sister and I are dealing with our late mother’s estate and so we’re in constant touch via our siblings’ WhatsApp group.

My father and stepmother are spending the winter in Madeira and are keeping us updated with how they’re doing via our family WhatsApp group. I chat to friends and colleagues via WhatsApp several times a day.

Before the pandemic stopped us from meeting up for lunch, I regularly used the Share Location feature to let friends know how far away I was from our meeting point.

WhatsApp has become the trusted go-to app for secure communication between family members, friends, parents of schoolchildren, politicians: in fact more than two billion of us use it. 

New terms and conditions

However, that trust has taken a knock as a result of a change to the app’s terms and conditions that you’ll almost certainly have seen a notification for.

Briefly, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, has told us that it’s changing its terms and conditions relating to messaging a business on WhatsApp. It’s stated that this is optional and ‘provides further transparency’ about how it collects and uses data.

First, the good news: the change does not apply to users in the UK and the EU: we are shielded by data protection law.

So what data does Facebook want to collect from WhatsApp? Surely because WhatsApp messages are encrypted, there’s nothing of use to Facebook?

Unfortunately, even without access to what you’re saying in your WhatsApp messages, Facebook can learn a lot from how you use WhatsApp. It can see what’s called metadata, which here means data about who you’re chatting to, how you’re connected to them on Facebook, where you both are, what devices you’re using to chat, how often you chat.

Facebook can infer a great deal about you from those connections, and use that to show you ever more closely targeted advertising. Until now there’s been a firewall between Facebook and WhatsApp and data couldn’t be shared between the two apps. It’s this firewall that Facebook is removing for users outside the UK/EU.

Should you switch platforms?

The answer, is, as ever: it depends. If you are in the UK/EU, and only chat to people in those countries, nothing is changing for you. If you were comfortable with WhatsApp previously, there’s no need to move. 

However, if you chat to people outside those countries and aren’t feeling comfortable with the new terms and conditions, you could consider switching to another messaging app. Data will be collected from the people you’re talking to, and data about you will be collected too, though Facebook won’t be able to connect that to your Facebook account.

And of course if you are an activist, a whistleblower or someone for whom privacy is vital, you shouldn’t be using WhatsApp in the first place. I’ve installed the Signal app, which, like WhatsApp, encrypts the messages I share with others.

However, because it’s not connected to any of the big social platforms, the metadata isn’t used by third parties, and so it’s more private. But although I prefer the privacy of Signal, I know that many of my friends won’t make the switch.

Managing your privacy

You can argue that because I continue to use Facebook, Twitter and Android, my privacy is already hideously compromised anyway, and you’d be right.

However, we all have our lines in the sand: I don’t use Gmail except to sign in to Android, and I don’t use the Gmail app at all. I also use the Edge browser rather than Chrome where possible. Small choices keep at least some of my data away from the Google and Facebook panopticons.

What are your choices? Will you keep on using WhatsApp, and if so, why? Or will you be switching to another app?

Are you considering switching from WhatsApp to a different messenger service?
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Let me know in the comments. 

Comments

Not sure if I’ve accepted the new terms and conditions so how can I check to see if I have

Ann Lunham says:
3 May 2021

I would like to agree to the terms and conditions. Thank you.

Good morning Carole. You expressly have to accept. I keep dissmissing the notice by touching ‘X’ and it keep re-appearing periodically. So, if you have accepted the new terms, the notice won’t appear again. My advice would be not to worry about it, and, if it does appear, deal with it then. Mike.

Good morning Ann,
If you haven’t already agreed to the new terms and conditions, WhatsApp will remind you again; as you use the application, you will see the pop-up message re-appear onscreen; accept when you are prompted. Mike

Lo Winson says:
12 May 2021

I accept the terms and conditions and community guidelines

Sue says:
4 March 2021

I pressed the x instead of tapping, will I lose the WhatsApp facility?

That’s the same question I am asking

WhatApp will set a date till you can press X and close the message after that you will be forced to Accept or you will not be allowed to use your WhatsApp application. Faceboob – owner of WhatsApp has extended the date for few months.

Sonia says:
25 March 2021

Cool

John says:
26 March 2021

I am switching over to Signal

Good choice John. Actually, WhatsApp uses the security framework that Signal developed. Telegram is also another good choice, but, I have reservations with the fact that users can have the same level of security as Signal users get by default, but, this has to be turned on. In this day and age, I believe companies need to keep their users safe. Choice is still important, but, secure as best as possible, and then users can downgrade for whatever reason.

On another level, Signal have cross-platform desktop solutions that offer more out of the box than WhatsApp does (including making calls from said desktop). The dedicated desktop solution makes the whole framework safer as well, in my opinion. WhatsApp deliver a partial service, via a web interface Mike

Diane says:
6 May 2021

Never had a problem with WhatsApp and as far as om concerned swapping would make no difference so ehy bother… Many people alrrady have Facebook accounts so their info and preferences are already out there. If you have something to hide then dont use social media or your phone or computer, tablet or smart TV!!!! The choice is yours 🙄

Peter says:
29 May 2021

Many people do have FB etc however as soon as WA shares all your WA contacts with FB you provide them with a great deal more information they can cross match with the FB information you’ve already provided and monetise it. It’s not a case of hiding anything; it’s the information you give them that enables FB to target advertising, manipulate news feeds etc etc and make billions. Your privacy is far more valuable to you than you may realise.

Adrian says:
16 May 2021

I don’t recall having been asked. Am I the only one? Did I accept it without reading it maybe?

Josey Wales says:
19 May 2021

In the UK, I haven’t seen a ‘pop-up’ requesting me to do anything… as yet… will I ever…?

The whats app message keeps coming up a lot and I press X all the time because I don’t really want to accept the new terms ( only because I don’t know what they really are).
I don’t have Facebook so in that respect may it be okay to accept the terms?
I just don’t know what to do?

Peter says:
29 May 2021

WhatsApp intends to share your WA contacts (+ other information they have for you – rough location, device type & model, country etc – a copy of which you can request from WhatsApp in Settings, Account on your phone). Sharing your contacts allows a cross match with information on Facebook & other apps like Instagram so that they can refine targeting, news feeds, interests etc for users of all their services. Although WhatsApp may not share this stuff immediately, by agreeing to their new T&Cs it’s only a matter of time before they do. Anyone who values their personal privacy should switch to a service like Signal. Hope this helps, P