The new WhatsApp Terms and Conditions of Use

Let’s start with this passage from the article in The Register referred to below where the founder of WhatsApp talks about his reasons for creating WhatsApp …

“When WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014, it promised netizens that its instant-messaging app would not collect names, addresses, internet searches, or location data. CEO Jan Koum wrote in a blog postAbove all else, I want to make sure you understand how deeply I value the principle of private communication. For me, this is very personal. I was born in Ukraine, and grew up in the USSR during the 1980s

One of my strongest memories from that time is a phrase I’d frequently hear when my mother was talking on the phone: ‘This is not a phone conversation; I’ll tell you in person.’ The fact that we couldn’t speak freely without the fear that our communications would be monitored by KGB is in part why we moved to the United States when I was a teenager.

Two years later, however, that vow was eroded by, well, capitalism, and WhatsApp revealed it would be “coordinating more with Facebook,” and gave people the opportunity to opt out of any data sharing. This time around, there is no opt-out for the sharing of data with Facebook and its tentacles. Koum left in 2018.”

So this all started 4 years ago, when WhatsApp announced a change to their Terms and Conditions (Ts&Cs) – the first change in many years, and the first since being taken over by Facebook. It was possible to opt out of this change which was announced as only to “improve the experience of Facebook users” (that’s kind of them – do I believe that?).

I don’t know whether I chose to opt out, I suspect I did, but I have no way of knowing!!! Whatever … I only had 30-days to opt out then, and I can’t go back and opt-out now.

I was alerted to the current impending change on February 8th, which is a take it, or leave it choice by this article in a well respected techie (UK-based) blog – The Register. It’s subsequently been updated, and may be updated again I suspect as more information is squeezed out of Facebook.

Before Christmas in a meeting of the Cardiff U3A Computer Group, I referred to the repatriation of UK-data to the US as a consequence of Brexit. So far Facebook and Google (and there could be more) have announced their attention to do just that, and others will undoubtedly follow. Free from Europe, our government has said we will follow GDPR (it had very little option), but the US tech companies see the wisdom of not having a European base for their (our) data and are hopeful of less stringent Federal privacy restrictions under a new Democratic Party controlled Senate committed to introducing legislation.

Once out of the European protection, we in Britain could in the course of time, and after the repatriation of Facebook data to California (read the article above), be deemed not to be part of the European area and so the protection offered by WhatsApp/Facebook suggested in this article in “The i“, would cease to apply. So the short-term acceptance of these Ts&Cs thinking they don’t apply to us, might be scuppered should the data-hosting move to the US.

No certainties, just doubts and that’s where mistrust comes in.

As of today, I’m at a loss to know what to advise or do. I’m hopeful of further clarification in the days to come, but I’ll leave acceptance of the new Ts&Cs to the last few days before February 8th.

Your comments and thoughts most welcome.

4 thoughts on “The new WhatsApp Terms and Conditions of Use”

  1. Good reading over here, I shall have to subscribe 🙂

    I’m similarly concerned, and have decided to delete my WhatsApp account. This is obviously inconvenient* but I feel strongly enough to take the hit.

    Over the weekend I WhatsApp’d the people in my list of contacts who I feel strongly about – and I’m pleased to say that actually I appear to have succeeded in bringing across the majority of these. It’s not a huge list (now I’m older I’m pretty settled in my small list of close friends) but I was pleasantly surprised nonetheless that my book group and a few other close friends just jumped across to Telegram without much of a blink. I also have Signal and from a privacy POV that might have been the better choice but actually I really like Telegram’s UI, ethic and bot infrastructure – plus their voice and video calls are stunningly good quality so that’s where I suggested friends head to.

    So, I’ll be deleting my WA account shortly.

    Now, I know that the WA stance in the UK is different now [] but even so I’m concerned, and have no doubt that they’ll roll this back into the future. Plus – as per your post [] – I have similar dislike of Facebook – I just don’t want anything to do with that monster, so making this sort of overhanging-potential-threat go away is all round a relief. In short – even if they do change their stance I’m glad I’m outta there.

    I was already a Telegram user and really liked it – and consistently bumped into lots of irritations with WhatsApp: no iPad app, not being able to have the desktop app on more than one active device at once, zero openness, no API, no bot infrastructure etc etc. – making this move further highlights that actually the main choice factor for WhatsApp (and granted, it’s a biggie!) is the number of users. But that isn’t enough for me, and I’m hoping we may see a gentle groundswell of people moving across to alternative platforms.

    Another thought: I think maybe thee and me and others like us sometimes transfer our concern onto others. By this I mean – if you think about what the actual impact is for people installing Telegram or Signal on their phone – it’s pretty much no effort. I wonder if people like you and I worry about this too much – hence why people seem to have been pretty easy to convince to join me over on Telegram. Also: it’s easy to think of this as a binary choice. I mean, it is for me: I’m choosing Telegram OVER WhatsApp. But for my friends: they can run Telegram and Signal AND WhatsApp – so the choice for them is actually relatively easy.

    * Things are made more complex for me because I – for a long time now – dumped my smartphone in favour of a dumb phone. I still have a smartphone but without a SIM in it, for home use only []. This means that I can’t just say to my WA contacts “hey, just use SMS instead” – because SMS is on my dumbphone…. and writing anyting in T9 is just ….awful…

    I have basically made a rod for my own back, but I’m a belligerent sod, so will continue.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Mike. I’d thought about Telegram as an alternative but was somewhat put off by its connections … Russia??? I think if I do jump, which will be very challenging as I actively promote WhatsApp with our U3A Computer Group, it might well be to Signal.

      On our private family blog and website I’ve implemented BuddyPress Social, and on the private Thought grazing site (for the U3A Computer Group) I’ve implemented BuddyPress Forums. What stops both of these really taking off is the absence of any affordable way of implementing a) push notifications, and b) and linked, the absence of any affordable way of getting an app on a smart device. Solve both of these and WhatsApp would be ashes.

      So, I’ll take another look at Telegram, but more seriously look at Signal. I was impressed by what you said about how easy it was to persuade folk to move platforms. I also thought your comment about folk like us over-thinking, was both interesting and challenging. I’ll need to reflect upon that one, but I can see you might well be right.

  2. The Russia connection is interesting – basically the founder [] left the country because of the regime. So unless he’s VERY DEEP I think the connection actually strengthens the reasons for believing in the company [].

    Buddy Press is a bit clunky, isn’t it? I don’t really do forums any more but the only one I would do is which is absolutely amazing.

    You might want to take a look at too – a notification bot for Telegram…

    1. Yes, I’ve been checking up on that and I may have got the wrong end of the stick. Still, I think I prefer to stick with what I’m familiar with, plus the Open Source and Foundation basis makes me feel I won’t need to hop-off again. Leaving Google+ was painful.

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