Since its inception, WhatsApp has claimed security and privacy as its core DNA. With its new “take-it-or-leave-it” policy, Whatsapp essentially threatened users of deleting their accounts, unless they accept the new terms before May (AFP)
Since its inception, WhatsApp has claimed security and privacy as its core DNA. With its new “take-it-or-leave-it” policy, Whatsapp essentially threatened users of deleting their accounts, unless they accept the new terms before May (AFP)

Making privacy a mainstream debate

While messages remain secure and encrypted, as Facebook seeks to build more tighter cross-platform integration across its ecosystem, the user data on WhatsApp could fall prey to it through data sharing or targeted and precise advertising
By Prabhu Ram
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 07:09 PM IST

In the wee hours of a rather cold Delhi winter morning, I received a phone call from my rather anxious 83-year-old uncle. He asked, “What should I do? I just accepted the new WhatsApp terms without reading too much into it. How can I withdraw it now? WhatsApp has been my only means to communicate with my kids in US. What do I do if they shift to Telegram? What happens to my data on WhatsApp?”

This was not an isolated conversation, indicating that we are at a potentially seminal moment of consumer understanding of privacy and what it entails.

Since its inception, WhatsApp has claimed security and privacy as its core DNA. With its new “take-it-or-leave-it” policy, Whatsapp essentially threatened users of deleting their accounts, unless they accept the new terms before May. The earlier deadline was February 8, but was deferred. Consumers are now recognising that there is a price attached to the service.

Since 2016, WhatsApp has been sharing data with Facebook, with the caveat that users could opt out by manually editing their settings within 30 days. So, this new policy is not about WhatsApp sharing more data with Facebook than it already did until now. It is, rather, about Facebook leveraging user data and engagement on WhatsApp to build a platform where businesses can start sharing and selling products and services to WhatsApp users. None of this is a surprise. Facebook’s acquisition was always with an intent to monetise WhatsApp for its data.

WhatsApp, with its new “take-it-or leave-it” privacy policy, may not have anticipated the severe consumer backlash against it. Consumers often miss reading the rather small fine print of the terms of the services. However, the fact that the new terms are mandatory made all the difference.

Telegram and Signal are the two platforms that consumers are embracing, with installs flying off the charts for both of them. Telegram offers extensive features such as larger groups, heavy files, and unlimited cloud storage along with end-to-end encrypted secret chats. Signal, on the other hand, is a relatively new name for most consumers in India. It offers a simple UX and some basic features with default end-to-end encryption. As network effects shape the future of messaging and communications apps, the question of which of the platforms emerges as a sustainable alternative needs to be seen.

If you are still on the fence, and contemplating what to do next if you are on WhatsApp, here is my answer.

Over the short-term, nothing much has changed. WhatsApp remains secure. WhatsApp remains end-to-end encrypted. And it will continue to share data as it has been doing all along. However, all of this is immaterial if users keep shifting to other apps before May. You need to be on the same platform where most of your peers, business partners, and most importantly, your loved ones are.

If you take a long-term view, the future will never be the same from here on for WhatsApp. The messaging service has now moved into a different trajectory — one focused on monetisation. It will now find it tough to regain or retain user trust. While messages remain secure and encrypted, as Facebook seeks to build tighter cross-platform integration across its ecosystem, the user data on WhatsApp could fall prey to it through data-sharing, or, for instance, targeted and precise advertising. There is no assurance that there will not be any further changes to the terms of use going forward. It all boils down to whether one is WhatsApp’s consumer or rather its product offering.

The conversation around WhatsApp policy has moved beyond just those engaged in the world of tech policy and privacy. When consumers, like my 83-year-old uncle, seek to grasp and work out the issues around what privacy means and entails, you know change is in the air.

Prabhu Ram heads the Industry Intelligence Group (IIG) at CyberMedia Research

The views expressed are personal

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
The single-most important geopolitical development of the last few months has been India making it clear to Beijing and to the world that it is possible to resist Chinese aggression successfully (ANI)
The single-most important geopolitical development of the last few months has been India making it clear to Beijing and to the world that it is possible to resist Chinese aggression successfully (ANI)

New Delhi’s new regional calculus

By Harsh V Pant
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 08:13 PM IST
India is giving peace a chance from a position of strength, after showing it can adequately defend its interests when challenged
Close
Education remained the one tool for social mobility, but women were still expected to use fairness creams to be marriageable. (Bloomberg)
Education remained the one tool for social mobility, but women were still expected to use fairness creams to be marriageable. (Bloomberg)

The changing nature of urban homes and women’s lives

By Rukmini Sen
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 07:25 PM IST
This pandemic highlighted the gendered implications of work-from-home and stay-at-home — in terms of increased labour and violence. The home remains a nuclear, heterosexual, marriage-reproduction-based space. A renewed political discussion around housework is needed as much as a re-articulation of what relationalities constitute this home.
Close
Supporters of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) shout slogans, during a rally supporting the implementation of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizenship (NRC), Kolkata, December. 23, 2019 (AP)
Supporters of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) shout slogans, during a rally supporting the implementation of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizenship (NRC), Kolkata, December. 23, 2019 (AP)

In Bengal, the BJP’s now-or-never moment

By Sandip Ghose
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 07:25 PM IST
With successive state governments at perpetual loggerheads with Delhi for over 50 years, there is a widespread feeling that Bengal has missed the development train. Therefore, Bengal’s voters may like to give the BJP’s promise of a “Double Engine Ka Sarkar” a chance, turning this into a wave election. Like Mamata Banerjee’s call of “Ebar or Never” in the 2000s, BJP is fighting this election based on a now-or-never spirit. For the Left and Congress, however, the writing on the wall appears to be Never–Ever.
Close
By toppling a Congress government in Puducherry, the BJP has sent a message to neighbouring Tamil Nadu, where it is contesting the assembly elections with the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, that the Congress is a greatly diminished force, and the party can be vanquished at any time. (PTI)(HT_PRINT)
By toppling a Congress government in Puducherry, the BJP has sent a message to neighbouring Tamil Nadu, where it is contesting the assembly elections with the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, that the Congress is a greatly diminished force, and the party can be vanquished at any time. (PTI)(HT_PRINT)

The battle for a UT and BJP’s South ambitions

By Venkatesha Babu
PUBLISHED ON MAR 08, 2021 09:18 AM IST
  • BJP is hoping that its NDA alliance of AINRC, AIADMK and itself along with the three nominated members will be able to come to power against the Congress – DMK combine.
Close
A nurse carries coolers with vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 as elderly people are being inoculated. (AFP Photo )
A nurse carries coolers with vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 as elderly people are being inoculated. (AFP Photo )

A crisis with a woman’s face

By Antonio Guterres
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2021 06:49 AM IST
Women are 24 per cent more vulnerable to losing their jobs and suffering steeper falls in income. The gender pay gap, already high, has widened, including in the health sector.
Close
Women’s education has increased over the last two decades, and fertility rates have fallen — both have contributed to increasing participation of women in the paid labour force elsewhere in the world. But not so in India (HTPHOTO)
Women’s education has increased over the last two decades, and fertility rates have fallen — both have contributed to increasing participation of women in the paid labour force elsewhere in the world. But not so in India (HTPHOTO)

India’s women and the workforce

By Ashwini Deshpande
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2021 09:34 AM IST
Women are not dropping out. They are being pushed out by the lack of demand for their labour. There has been movement out of agriculture into informal and casual jobs, where the work is sporadic, and often less than 30 days at a stretch. The new modern sector opportunities, especially in high value-added service sectors, mostly accrue to men.
Close
The BJP is going all out to win this election and Mamata Banerjee is fighting tooth and nail to ensure that she does not concede an inch. Both sides are evenly matched (Samir Jana/HT Photo)
The BJP is going all out to win this election and Mamata Banerjee is fighting tooth and nail to ensure that she does not concede an inch. Both sides are evenly matched (Samir Jana/HT Photo)

The high-stakes battle in West Bengal 2021

By Shashi Shekhar
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2021 09:35 AM IST
In West Bengal, one TMC slogan is “Khela Hobe” (game on). The BJP picked it up and ran with it. Now the Congress and Left activists are repeating this. The game is truly on. But it will be just a game if it is stripped of all morality. It becomes a mockery of the people’s aspirations. But that is the way things are going at the moment.
Close
Violence against women or gender-based violence is defined by the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women as “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately”. (HTPHOTO)
Violence against women or gender-based violence is defined by the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women as “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately”. (HTPHOTO)

A misplaced idea of honour enables violence against women

By Amita Punj
UPDATED ON MAR 08, 2021 09:35 AM IST
The prevailing gendered notions of honour remain at variance with the gender-just society that the Constitution seeks to establish. The constitutional principles of non-discrimination and equality are in tune with India’s international obligations as a party to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Close
A nurse draws a Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, at East Valley Community Health Center in La Puente, California, US. (REUTERS)
A nurse draws a Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, at East Valley Community Health Center in La Puente, California, US. (REUTERS)

Look at number of people dying post-vaccination: Efficacy number that matters

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 07, 2021 07:10 PM IST
People aren’t only worried about dying from Covid; they’re also worried about getting so-called long Covid and transmitting the disease to others even after they’re vaccinated.
Close
Why has the government persisted with a highly centralised approach? One, the BJP 2.0 appears enthralled with the idea of One Nation, One India. Two, collaborating with state governments or opening legislation up to parliamentary debate requires more time, effort, and risk of failure than executive decree. Three, there is an issue with credit-claiming (PTI)
Why has the government persisted with a highly centralised approach? One, the BJP 2.0 appears enthralled with the idea of One Nation, One India. Two, collaborating with state governments or opening legislation up to parliamentary debate requires more time, effort, and risk of failure than executive decree. Three, there is an issue with credit-claiming (PTI)

For reforms, create a coalition of the willing

By Milan Vaishnav and Jonathan Kay
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 08:16 PM IST
Instead of big bang measures announced from Delhi, PM Modi should use his stature to create a coalition of like-minded states to pursue economic reforms
Close
With land in agriculture mostly being in the name of men, women are not recognised as farmers, although a large proportion of them are involved in agricultural work. This also keeps women away from accessing various schemes and resources (HT Photo)
With land in agriculture mostly being in the name of men, women are not recognised as farmers, although a large proportion of them are involved in agricultural work. This also keeps women away from accessing various schemes and resources (HT Photo)

The missing women in India’s workforce

By Dipa Sinha
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 08:18 PM IST
Studies have shown that women are willing to be employed, negating the argument that cultural factors keep women from working outside the household
Close
So why is the court silent? Once retired, judges have spoken out, but those still sitting on its benches have kept their lips sealed. (File Photo)
So why is the court silent? Once retired, judges have spoken out, but those still sitting on its benches have kept their lips sealed. (File Photo)

Institutions have failed citizens on sedition

UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 08:17 PM IST
In a nutshell, sedition can only apply if there is clear and imminent incitement to violence. Not otherwise. But have our police and various governments recognised this? Or, if they have, do they care?
Close
Women labourers work at a site under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Ajmer, 2020 (PTI)
Women labourers work at a site under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Ajmer, 2020 (PTI)

Can Covid-19 open doors for working women?

UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2021 08:17 PM IST
The Start-up India and Skill India schemes should target women much more aggressively now. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose words have proved transformational in many areas, should use his popular radio broadcast, Mann ki Baat, to emphasis the need to get women back into the workforce and make the workplace more conducive to those already in it.
Close
Without either the wealth and connections or profile of India’s film industry, Faruqui has shown more courage and almost zero cynicism. It doesn’t matter if you found his jokes funny or not — the jail-time he was subjected to was an abomination. (ANI)
Without either the wealth and connections or profile of India’s film industry, Faruqui has shown more courage and almost zero cynicism. It doesn’t matter if you found his jokes funny or not — the jail-time he was subjected to was an abomination. (ANI)

What Bollywood could learn from Munawar Faruqui

PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 06:09 PM IST
In this patchy, roller-coaster of a fortnight for India’s fundamental freedoms, some individuals have stood up, while others have failed our citizens
Close
The Digital Media Code has been formulated rather speciously, under Section 87 (1) & (2)(z) & (zg) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) (“IT Act”) i.e., the rule-making power. Rule-making or subordinate legislations are intended to carry out the purpose of an enactment. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The Digital Media Code has been formulated rather speciously, under Section 87 (1) & (2)(z) & (zg) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) (“IT Act”) i.e., the rule-making power. Rule-making or subordinate legislations are intended to carry out the purpose of an enactment. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Creating a sustainable, legitimate digital regulatory regime

By NS Nappinai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 05:55 PM IST
The Digital Media Code fails to conform to, and, in fact, confounds, every settled constitutional mandate for lawmaking — the very obvious premise that law is to be made by the lawmakers i.e. the legislature and not the executive.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP