April 20, 2021

Volume XI, Number 110

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April 20, 2021

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April 19, 2021

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Privacy Tip #273 – What’s with WhatsApp’s New Privacy Policy?

WhatsApp started notifying its 2 billion users last month about an update to its privacy policy. Most of its users probably didn’t look at the details, and simply clicked “I agree” when the notice popped up on their phones. (To use the app, one must click “I agree.”) There has been a backlash from privacy advocates, which is worth noting here in case you missed that news. WhatsApp has delayed the implementation of the terms of the new privacy policy for a few months so it can address those concerns.

If you are a WhatsApp user and you click “I agree” to that pop-up that you don’t read, here’s a synopsis (not comprehensive) of what you are agreeing to that is not protecting your privacy:

  • WhatsApp can share all data it collects about you with the entire Facebook network, (including Instagram), even if you don’t have an account with other parts of the network (e.g., Instagram).

  • If you don’t accept the new terms, you will not have full functionality of the app (which is reported to go live in May).

  • WhatsApp is monetizing the data it collects from you and asks for your consent to use your data to make money.

  • WhatsApp will be providing more information about the changes to the privacy policy through a banner in WhatsApp—this writer thinks you may wish to read the banner and the privacy policy a bit more carefully before you agree.

  • Although your conversations in WhatsApp are private and encrypted, WhatsApp has access to your usage data and your unique identifier, which may be linked to your identity. This is one of the reasons they are asking you to accept the new terms.

  • Facebook is monetizing your data and increasing its revenue by using your usage of WhatsApp to push targeted ads to you on Facebook and Instagram.

The changes to the privacy policy are not really designed to protect your privacy, but rather to get consent to sell your information so businesses can sell things to you. It’s not really a “privacy” policy, it is a “let me monetize your data” policy.

Some users are taking note that they will not agree to the new “privacy” policy and are defecting to Signal, which as a privacy pro, I prefer for messaging. WhatsApp users may wish to take a look at Signal’s privacy policy and compare it to WhatsApp’s. It can be accessed here.

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Copyright © 2021 Robinson & Cole LLP. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 56
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About this Author

Linn F. Freedman, Robinson Cole Law Firm, Cybersecurity and Litigation Law Attorney, Providence
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Linn Freedman practices in data privacy and security law, cybersecurity, and complex litigation. She provides guidance on data privacy and cybersecurity compliance to a full range of public and private clients across all industries, such as construction, education, health care, insurance, manufacturing, real estate, utilities and critical infrastructure, marine, and charitable organizations. Linn is a member of the firm's Business Litigation Group and chairs its Data Privacy + Cybersecurity Team. She is also a member of the Financial Services Cyber-Compliance Team (CyFi ...

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