Facebook’s latest privacy gaffe has many people angry. So angry in fact, that they are thinking of deleting WhatsApp. We can’t blame you if you feel the same way. For years, the service has been the go-to place for our private conversations thanks to Facebook’s promise to not touch WhatsApp’s privacy policies.
Now, however, that’s not the case. On January 8, users were greeted with the following popup.
Since there’s no option to disagree, it is likely that might have clicked ok without reading too much into it (I did). Over the last few days, people have been worrying if Facebook can now read their messages, and thanks to Elon Musk shifting to Signal. So should you also jump ship? Here is a look at some of the fake news going around about the update, and what exactly has changed.
If you still don’t feel like it’s for you, we’ve also listed down five alternatives. But before you make a decision, here’s the truth.
Facts You Need to Know
Will WhatsApp share my messages with Facebook?
WhatsApp’s messages are end-to-end encrypted. That means no one apart from the sender and receiver see them. The company has clearly stated that it does not and cannot share messages with Facebook, or anyone else.
Does WhatsApp share location data with Facebook?
Even if you do not enable access to location, WhatsApp can “use IP addresses and other information like phone number area codes to estimate your general location.” The company does not explicitly state that it shares this data with Facebook, but it is possible.
Does WhatsApp save my messages?
No it does not. Messages once received are deleted from the server. The only time messages are kept on the server are when they are undelivered (deleted after 30 days) and when you forward media. The company does not say how long it stores the media for, but since it is end-to-end encrypted, you should know Facebook cannot access the video/photo.
Does WhatsApp know who I chat with?
What does WhatsApp collect?
You need to give WhatsApp permission to access your contacts, location, camera, mike, and photo library. None of this data is shared with Facebook, as it is accessed locally. WhatsApp does collect device-specific information like the model of your phone, the operating system, and connection information (signal strength, phone number and mobile operator). WhatsApp also collects information on how you use the app, i.e. the features (video calls vs audio calls, chats, Status, online status, groups with their names and icons etc.).
Most of these policies are not new. They have existed before, just not that openly. Now it is clear. Here’s all the data WhatsApp will share with Facebook:
- Your phone number
- Device information (model, OS, connection information)
- Location information via IP address
- How you use the app
WhatsApp will share this data with Facebook, as well as Facebook’s other products. And since it’s not possible to opt-out of, you have to share this information. If you don’t, you won’t be able to use the app.
WhatsApp clarified as much in a detailed statement to The Verge. The company said: “the update does not change WhatsApp’s data-sharing practices with Facebook and does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family wherever they are in the world.” Instead, the company says the update only affects chats with business accounts.
What that means is, if a business hosts its account on Facebook, it can integrate Facebook and WhatsApp data. If you as a user interact with such an account, then Facebook will know. It’s not an ideal situation either way, and something you should definitely try to avoid.
Alternatives to WhatsApp
If you don’t want Facebook accessing all this data about you, there are a few alternatives you can turn to. Here are 5 popular chat apps that are a good replacement for WhatsApp.
Thanks to Elon Musk, Signal is being touted as a robust alternative to WhatsApp. Signal only collects your phone number, and nothing else. The app offers end-to-end encrypted chats, voice and video calls, group chats and almost everything else WhatsApp does. Signal also offers a native iPad app, as well as Windows version. If you are on Mac though, tough luck.
Telegram is known to be home to pirated content, pornography and other illegal activities, but it is still a pretty secure application. It even allows you to find people near you, which is a handy little feature. If that has you sold, Telegram has apps for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Android, Windows and macOS. It’s the best alternative to WhatsApp right now in our opinion.
It’s not available for Android, but if you have an iPhone, switch to iMessage. Not only is it more private, but it also offers some great features like message effects you won’t find elsewhere. With FaceTime, voice and video calls are also secure, and fun. Honestly it’s a feature many take for granted. Hopefully Apple brings it to Android soon.
It may have been overshadowed by Zoom and others, but it’s still a pretty reliable option. It does pretty much everything you want from a chat app. Don’t dismiss it as old school, it works quite well. The only downside is that you end up giving up a lot of data to Microsoft. But at least they aren’t as bad as Facebook right?