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If you’ve been paying attention to technology news this past week you would have seen the alarms going up about Facebook and its flagship messenger service – WhatsApp.
This week, Facebook-owned WhatsApp started giving users a pop-up alert that looks a lot like an ultimatum for people who want to continue using the app. Essentially, it says that people need to agree to new terms of service by February 8 or risk losing access to your WhatsApp next month.
The revamped set of requirements is also a reversal on a one-time decision in 2016 that allowed users to opt out of having their account data turned over to Facebook. This includes phone numbers, friends’ phone numbers, profile names and pictures, status messages and activity status, as well as detailed diagnostic data from app logs. However, the new policy means Facebook reserves the right to share the data collected from its family of online platforms.
Furthermore, there will be cases where Facebook decides to share that data with third parties, which has privacy groups riled up again. This is particularly revealing for the Facebook family of apps, which happens to have the most extensive list of all.
It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that Facebook is so adamant in collecting all that metadata, as the company makes most of its revenue from advertising. And Facebook has surged ahead of Google in its collection and collating of personal private date about its users. Even without your name, Facebook can build a profile of each of its users, their friends, where they go, their interests, their illnesses, their jobs, even the food they eat. This is an astounding violation of privacy.
So what does all of this mean? WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, will now be turning all your communication logs, contacts, recordings of voice texts and actual texts over to Facebook for profile building and monetization.
While WhatsApp has been useful for its encrypted texting, that shouldn’t change. Messages between users will still be secure. But those messages will now be available to Facebook for sales to its advertisers. Effectively, that means that the security aspect of WhatsApp will be disappearing, even though they may continue to hype the encryption benefit of its product.
So what to do? We recommend changing to either Signal or Telegram as your regular texting service. Both offer end-to-end encryption. While Telegram does develop logs of communication, Signal does not. In fact, Signal is the service used by Edward Snowden to evade NSA tracking and eavesdropping. That makes it good enough for me.
Best of all, Signal isn’t owned by one of the big tech brands and is run as a non-profit, relying on donations and grants to pay for the development, servers, and bandwidth costs. With Signal, you’re basically getting the best features that WhatsApp has to offer — end-to-end encryption and voice and video calling — without all the Facebook shadiness.
Telegram chats are encrypted, but you’ll only find end-to-end encryption for secret chats. The service recently picked up voice calls, but right there’s no way to make video calls on the platform. Telegram is still owned by founder and CEO Pavel Durov, and with the service rapidly growing, it is planning to charge monthly fees for “business teams and power users”
Between Signal and Telegram, you have two great alternatives that protect your privacy. This is as good a time as any to ditch the Facebook-owned WhatsApp and find greener pastures.
Be Safe – Backup Your Data Regularly!
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