Secret app: why WhatsApp is changing its privacy policy

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Secret app: why WhatsApp is changing its privacy policy


The messenger is accused of surveillance and manipulation of users' opinions Igor Karmazin
The messenger is accused of surveillance and manipulation of users' opinions
Igor Karmazin

Messenger WhatsApp changes the terms of the user agreement. The new rules provide for the mandatory transfer of their data by users to the social network Facebook. Those who refuse to accept the new policy will receive messages and calls, but will not be able to answer them. Experts say that it will now be easier for American intelligence agencies to monitor and manipulate user opinions. Izvestia understood the situation.

What is changing?
Messenger WhatsApp changes the terms of the user agreement. The new rules assume that the application will transfer personal data of users to Facebook, which owns the messenger. The social network, in particular, will have access to phone numbers, transaction data and IP addresses.
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In addition, Facebook will receive location data . “Even if you do not use our location-related features, we use IP addresses and other information, such as area code, to determine your approximate location (city and country),” the document says . In addition, Facebook applications will receive information about the mobile device (model, operating system, communication network), user statuses, and access to profile photos .

At the same time, it is argued that the correspondence of users will remain hidden . “Thanks to end-to-end encryption, we can't see your private messages or calls, just like Facebook. We are committed to this technology and are committed to protecting it globally, ”said WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart. He adds that updating the privacy policy is necessary to improve the service. According to him, the new rules will help improve the interaction of private and commercial accounts.
WhatsApp
User WhatsApp

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Users perceived the changes negatively. The fact is that Facebook occasionally has privacy issues . So, in 2018, a scandal broke out related to the transfer of information about users to large companies by the social network. The New York Times then published an investigation confirming that Facebook had an agreement with 150 corporations , including Yahoo, Netflix, Amazon and others. Most of them had access to correspondence, photos, posts on social networks.

In the same 2018, another scandal erupted. It turned out that the data of millions of Facebook users, primarily from the United States, were at the disposal of the British firm Cambridge Analytica. She used them for political analysis during the 2016 US presidential elections and the referendum on Britain's exit from the European Union. The company, based on information about the user's city of residence, his likes, the list of friends and other data, compiled a political portrait and was able to potentially influence the voter's decision in the elections with the help of advertising.

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In 2019, the social network discovered that the passwords of a number of users were stored on its servers unencrypted - in plain text . Facebook then reported that inappropriate storage of information was identified during a routine security check and affected "hundreds of millions of Facebook Lite users, tens of millions of other Facebook users and tens of thousands of Instagram users."

Finally, in 2020, the proceedings related to the work of the Facebook service for recognizing faces in Tag Suggestions photos were completed. Users from the US state of Illinois accused the company of breaking the law by collecting data from people without their consent. In 2020, Facebook agreed to pay $ 550 million and reached a pre-trial agreement with the plaintiffs.

Facebook
Facebook


What's next
The changes to the rules on WhatsApp were first reported in January. Then it was assumed that the new privacy policy will come into force on February 8. The innovations, however, drew a flurry of criticism. The disaffected have brought the hashtag #WhatsAppPrivacy to Twitter trends. Users also began to abandon the app en masse. In January, the number of downloads of the messenger fell by 11%. At the same time, the popularity of alternative services Signal and Telegram has grown. “There will be no collection of personal data and no user profiling. If you do not use our large channels, then you will not see ads, ”promised the founder of Telegram Pavel Durov.

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Whole governments have also joined in. For example, the Turkish Competition Council began its investigation. Until the end of the proceedings, the regulator prohibited the messenger from transmitting user data, even if they accepted the privacy rules . In India, the Traders Association has approached the government and asked it to ban the messenger from implementing the new policy.

Russia also reacted. Alexander Malkevich, a member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation for the Development of the Information Society, Mass Media and Mass Communications, urged officials to abandon working chats in WhatsApp. “Our confidential information will now legally become the property of Western intelligence services,” he said. Senator Alexei Pushkov considered the innovations a step "towards the creation of a real Big Brother." “Many will find an alternative - out of a sense of protest. Hamsters eat, ”he said.
Telephone

Experts from the Scientific and Technical Center (STC) of the Federal State Unitary Enterprise "Main Radio Frequency Center" say that the changes will allow the American special services not only to monitor users, but also to manipulate public opinion . Experts emphasize that Facebook is an American company. And according to US law, companies can provide intelligence agencies with access to encryption keys, even without special grounds. "With such broad powers, the American intelligence services can carry out total state espionage not only for their citizens, but also for millions of users around the world," the STC said in a statement.

Due to a barrage of criticism, WhatsApp has postponed the change to the terms of use. The new rules will finally come into force on May 15. While WhatsApp is applying the strategy of "gradual persuasion" - a notification about the introduction of new rules appears in the messenger window from time to time, users are asked to agree with them. Accounts that refuse to agree to the changes will not be deleted, but will limit functionality. After May 15, they will continue to receive calls and messages, but will not be able to answer them. If the user still does not accept the new rules of the messenger, then his account will be deleted after 120 days.
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