The Relationship Between Facebook and WhatsApp
While WhatsApp is currently owned by Facebook, it began as an independent startup. In 2016, WhatsApp incorporated end-to-end encryption. By eliminating the server’s ability to read a user’s messages, WhatsApp increased the privacy of their users on the platform.
In 2014, Facebook acquired WhatsApp, and its creators continued working on WhatsApp. However, WhatsApp’s founders and Facebook executives did not see eye to eye. In 2018, both of WhatsApp’s creators left Facebook over long-standing disagreements on how Facebook planned to monetize WhatsApp.
As a “free” tech company, Facebook’s business model is based upon monetizing its users. The vast amount of information that people share on Facebook enables the company to build extremely detailed profiles of its users. The company’s revenue comes from selling targeting advertising, where companies can pay to place their ads in front of the customers most likely to click and buy.
The WhatsApp Privacy Rollback
The backlash against this decision was overwhelming. Many high-profile figures – including Elon Musk – publicly stated that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal. As a result, Signal’s registration system crashed as WhatsApp users attempted to move over to the privacy-focused secure communications app.
Implications of the WhatsApp Privacy Update
It’s absolutely true that WhatsApp plans to share all of its data with Facebook. However, most data has been shared since 2016 anyway.
• Increased Data Sharing: Previously, WhatsApp users’ account information was shared with Facebook. Now, as Facebook integrates Facebook Shops into WhatsApp, data about users’ interaction with Facebook Shops will be shared with Facebook and Instagram as well.
● Data Retention: Facebook is currently facing anti-trust lawsuits that may force the breakup of its mergers with WhatsApp and Instagram. Pooling all user data before this occurs may give all three companies access to that data if the lawsuit succeeds in reversing the mergers.
Maintaining Privacy on Messaging Apps
WhatsApp’s move to share even more user data with Facebook demonstrates that - under the Facebook umbrella - the focus of the company is not on user privacy. Despite the fact that WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted, the company could still access user messages within the apps (before encryption or after decryption) if it chooses to do so.
Facebook clearly does not put user privacy first, but it is not impossible to find truly secure and privacy communications apps. Ciphr is a secure messaging app that puts privacy in the hands of the user. By minimizing data collection and keeping control of encryption keys in the user’s hands, Ciphr demonstrates a commitment to user privacy and security that stands in stark contrast to WhatsApp.