WhatsApp recently bungled their terms and conditions update as covered in my recent The Great WhatsApp Trek article. Following the uproar and exodus of users, WhatsApp has decided to postpone their update until 15 May 2021. Users have been sharing their WhatsApp data with Facebook since 2016 even if they weren’t aware. The latest update makes it compulsory for users to agree to this. Interestingly, users in the European Union (EU) can opt-out of data sharing with Facebook as this contravenes their General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). So unless you’re living in Europe you have to agree to the company’s terms to continue using the app.

Can WhatsApp read your messages?

WhatsApp says it is not able to read your messages as all messages are protected by end-to-end encryption. They don’t store messages after they’ve been delivered. When a message is undelivered for longer than 30 days it is automatically deleted. The backend of WhatsApp uses the Signal Protocol to encrypt messages. Since WhatsApp is not open-source software, more tech-savvy users are not able to verify this. WhatsApp is able to make changes to the protocol without scrutiny from developers. We’ll just have to take their word for it. What WhatsApp shares with Facebook is the metadata of the WhatsApp account. This is everything that describes the data itself, which can be understood as data about your data.

If a user deletes WhatsApp, does it automatically delete their data?

No. Users must use the in-app feature to delete their account. Even then, some of their information will remain with the company such as the group chats you’ve created or the information that other users have of you, such as their copies of messages that you had sent to them.

What information can WhatsApp access and share with Facebook?

The company can access a user’s account information including:

  • phone number,
  • profile name,
  • profile photo,
  • online status,
  • status message,
  • last seen status,
  • read receipts

With regards to the user’s phone, it is a lot more comprehensive:

  • IP address and device location
  • app version,
  • version of Android or iOS,
  • mobile network / Internet Service Provider (ISP),
  • language and time zone,
  • identifiers unique to other Facebook apps (Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram) associated with the same device or account).

How can you see what information WhatsApp has collected about you?

WhatsApp provides a report about the data it has collected about you. To access this data, simply go to Settings – Account – Request account info. It takes 3 days for the report to generate. Here is my report with some sensitive information redacted for security reasons:

Your WhatsApp Information
Note: All times are Pacific Time.
Below is a list of your WhatsApp account information and settings that you can request at any time. Our Privacy Policy has more information about how we collect and use your information, how it’s shared and how long we retain it. It also outlines your rights and how you can exercise them, and how we operate and transfer your information as part of our global services.
User Information
Report Generation Time 2021/01/25-06:11:59
Report Request Time 2021/01/22-05:19:46
Phone Number +27845897281
Email Address
Name
Connection State OFFLINE
Online Since
Offline Since 2021/01/25-04:27:47
Inactive Since
Previous Connection IP 105.4.1.0
Current Connection IP
Device Type Android
App Version 2.20.206.24
Device OS Build Number 9
Device Manufacturer HUAWEI
Device Model HWANE
Web/Desktop Version
Web/Desktop Platform
Web/Desktop Connected Since
Web/Desktop Availability State INACTIVE
Web/Desktop Inactive Since
About Find me on Telegram and Signal
About Set Time 2021/01/10-07:46:18
Profile Picture
Profile Picture Upload Time 2020/01/10-07:46:18
Contacts +27XXXXXXXXX, +27XXXXXXXXX… + 618 other numbers
Groups X Xxxx
XXXXX Xxxxxx
+ 10 other groups…
Terms of Service
2016 Terms of Service Accepted Yes
2016 Terms of Service Accept Time 2016/08/26-04:18:32
Data Sharing Opt-Out No
Data Sharing Opt-Out Time
2018 Terms of Service Accepted No
2018 Terms of Service Accept Time
Registration Information
Platform android-2.18.248
Network 655007
Network Name XXXxxxXXX
Device XXXXXXX-XXX-XXX
Registration Time 2018/08/30-13:26:27
Settings
Last Seen Privacy Nobody
Profile Photo Privacy Everyone
About Privacy My Contacts
Status Privacy
Blocked Numbers +27XXXXXXXXX, +27XXXXXXXXX, +27XXXXXXXXX, +27XXXXXXXXX
Read Receipts Yes

Conclusion

WhatsApp still has the most users. This means that businesses may need to keep using the app for their business messaging. The cost of switching their service to another messenger like Telegram or Signal might be too costly or time-consuming.

Co-founder of WhatsApp, Brian Acton said he sees people using a more private app like Signal for conversations with their family and close friends, and using WhatsApp for other chats.

“I have no desire to do all the things that WhatsApp does. My desire is to give people a choice,” he said. “Otherwise, you’re locked into something where you have no choice. It’s not strictly a winner-take-all scenario.”

Spread the love