[Editorial Analysis] WhatsApp private policy

Mains Paper 3: Security
Prelims level: WhatsApp
Mains level: Social Media related issues

Context:

• WhatsApp in its new privacy policy brought differentiation between “messages with friends or family” and “messages with a business”.
• In some conditions, business messages — “different than messaging with your family or friends” — can be read by Facebook and could be used for marketing purposes.

WhatsApp chat with friends and family:

• Neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can “see your private messages or hear your calls”. Personal messages are protected by end-to-end encryption and will continue to be so.
• WhatsApp does not keep logs of who anyone is messaging or calling, because it considers a data dump of this kind a “privacy and security risk”.
• WhatsApp cannot see a location you have shared with a friend as that too is protected by end-to-end encryption.
• WhatsApp does not share a user’s contacts with Facebook, or any other app.
• No data from groups will be shared with Facebook for ad purposes and all the communication within is end-to-end encrypted. So, if you are a member of an office, RWA or school group, there is nothing to worry as nothing changes for you.

How are business messages different?

• The interplay between WhatsApp and Facebook, its parent company, becomes more visible when it comes to messages to business, where the new privacy changes have been applied.
• Now some “large businesses” might need to use “secure hosting services from Facebook to manage WhatsApp chats with their customers, answer questions, and send helpful information like purchase receipts”.
• WhatsApp will “clearly label conversations with businesses that are choosing to use hosting services from Facebook”.
• These labels are already visible when you are communicating with a business, and users will now need to decide whether they want to be in a conversation, the details of which could be used to show them targeted ads.
• Business messaging, which WhatsApp has been gradually activating across many markets, will ultimately results in advertisements based on preferences you have shown to the business.
• If you use WhatsApp for a business and have a list of clients, the business on the other side too will see the conversation and know your preferences. This could be used to show you ads on Facebook platforms. If you are the business owner, you could use some of the insights to run ads targeting your customers on Facebook and other services.

Recent changes:

• Nothing changes when it comes to personal chats. However, if you are engaged in conversations with a business, you might start seeing related ads on Facebook and other company products such as Instagram.
• In case of a large following, it might be a good idea to be cautious while using the business features as many people could have access to your preferences.

European union:

• General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is one of the strictest in the world and ensures that consumers have the full rights on their data and how that data is processed, and can even demand erasure of information.
• Here, consumers have “the right to access, rectify, port, and erase your information, as well as the right to restrict and object to certain processing of your information.”
• EU also talks about data sharing with Facebook, consumers there get a special setting called “Managing and Retaining Your Information”, with which they can rectify, update or erase information that the platform controls.
• This option is not available elsewhere. Consumers in the EU can even withdraw their consent to WhatsApp for processing of data, thanks to GDPR.

Situation in India:

• India lacks a regulatory authority. Until the Personal Data Protection Bill becomes law, it will be hard to police tech companies on how user data should be processed.
• WhatsApp’s new privacy policy applies to every country, including the US, and users will have to accept the terms and conditions to continue using the service.
• Monetizing private user data without providing them a choice is contentious. Given mass use in India, WhatsApp is here to say and it would take a longer people to shift their social circles to a new app.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) Thoubal Multipurpose Project is in:
(a) Manipur
(b) Mizoram
(c) Assam
(d) West Bengal
Answer: A

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