Over the past week, nearly 2 billion people worldwide using WhatsApp, Facebook’s proprietary instant messaging service, were greeted with a giant pop-up window when they launched the app.
Unless people accept these new conditions, on February 8 they will be blocked from WhatsApp.
Online, the reaction was quick. “Use the signal” he tweeted Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, to his 42 million followers, referring to WhatsApp’s open source alternative popular among people who treat sensitive information as journalists and activists. “I use [Signal] every day and I’m not dead yet ” he tweeted American whistleblower Edward Snowden. In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s media cabinet and the country’s defense ministry announced that they did dropping WhatsApp after changing the policy, and opened an investigation into the move.
Signal became the leading free app in both Google and Apple app stores in most countries around the world. More than 8,800,000 people downloaded Signal on iPhone and Android phones in the week of Jan. 4, compared to just 246,000 people the week before, according to data analytics firm Sensor Tower. Telegram, another WhatsApp alternative, dit on Tuesday more than 25 million people had joined in the past 72 hours.
“I was worried about my privacy,” J. Paul, a Bombay marketing professional who only wanted to identify with the initial of his first name, told BuzzFeed News. “Facebook monetizes its products in an invasive way for users.”
In addition to Facebook, WhatsApp is Facebook’s largest and most popular service. In markets such as Brazil and India, the application is the default shape communication for hundreds of millions of people. But so far, Facebook, which paid $ 22 billion to acquire it in 2014, has kept it largely independent and has not tried to make money from it. Now, that is changing.
“We remain committed to the privacy and security of people’s private messages,” a WhatsApp spokesman told BuzzFeed News and offered a link on a page the company posted earlier this week explaining the new policy. “The best way to keep end-to-end encryption long-term is to have a business model that protects people’s private communication.”
The page says that WhatsApp believes that messaging with companies is different from messaging with friends and family and breaks down the data that the company could share with Facebook in the future.
“If you spent $ 22 billion buying something, sooner or later, shareholders want you to earn revenue from that asset,” Mishi Choudhary, a technology lawyer and civil liberties activist based at BuzzFeed News, told BuzzFeed News. in New York.
WhatsApp, created by two former Yahoo employees, Jan Koum and Brian Acton, originally charged people a dollar a year. After Facebook made the app free to use, growth exploded. During the early years after buying the app in 2014, Facebook largely left WhatsApp alone. But in 2018 it launched WhatsApp Business, which allowed companies to use WhatsApp to communicate with customers. For the first time, Facebook wanted WhatsApp to start generating revenue.
Over the past year, WhatsApp has added more business features, such as flight tickets and purchase receipts, catalogs, i payments. WhatsApp said there are more than 50 million companies on the platform and every day more than 175 million people send messages to a company.
“I don’t trust Facebook,” Paul said. He recently deactivated his Facebook account, although he still uses Instagram and WhatsApp. “I’m required to participate, but I don’t trust it,” he said.
Confidence in WhatsApp has eroded since Facebook bought it. Koum advocated selling the app on Facebook in 2014 blog post, stating that the company was not interested in people’s personal data. “If collaborating with Facebook meant we had to change our values, we wouldn’t have done it,” he wrote. Two years later, however, WhatsApp announced that would start sharing some data, including phone numbers and the last time people used the service with Facebook, a move for which the European Union fine 110 million euros.
In response, Facebook has a lovely offensive. In India, which is the company’s largest market with more than 400 million users, the company splattered the covers of major national newspapers with full-page ads that made it clear that it could not see people’s private messages. nor listen to their calls. “Respect for your privacy is encoded in our DNA,” said the WhatsApp announcement, which echoed a line from Koum’s 2014 blog post.
“It is important to be clear that this update describes business communication and does not modify WhatsApp data sharing practices with Facebook,” he wrote. “It doesn’t affect the way people communicate in private with friends or family wherever they are in the world.”
Cathcart did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
Despite the outcry, abandoning WhatsApp in countries like India could be tough. Paul, the Bombay marketing professional, said he would continue to use the app until he urged everyone he knows to switch to Signal.
“It’s not an easy sale,” he said, “for how convenient WhatsApp is.”