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Millions Of WhatsApp Users Delete The App Over Data Sharing Concerns

...WhatsApp is making a huge change to its privacy policy from Feb 8

Millions of WhatsApp users have taken the drastic step of abandoning the app ahead of a privacy policy update that will force them to share their data with Facebook.

The update, which will be released on February 8, affects WhatsApp users in all countries outside of Europe and the UK, where there are strict data protection laws.

Users in these regions will be required to give their consent for Facebook to access their data, including their phone numbers and information about how they interact with others, in order to continue using the app.

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The requirement will apply regardless of whether or not the WhatsApp user has a Facebook account.

The news has led many people to jump ship to rival apps, according to data from Sensor Tower.

When the privacy policy changes were announced on January 7, Telegram picked up nearly 1.7 million downloads and Signal gained 1.2 million downloads, while WhatsApp, which usually dominates, gained just 1.3 million downloads.

WhatsApp installations also fell approximately 13 per cent to 10.3 million downloads in the first seven days of January, compared to the seven days prior.

WhatsApp users have been left reeling by the latest change, which means they could lose access to their account unless they agree to share data with Facebook
WhatsApp users have been left reeling by the latest change, which means they could lose access to their account unless they agree to share data with Facebook

WhatsApp first alerted users to the new privacy policy changes in a notification last week.

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The privacy policy explains: ‘As part of the Facebook Companies, WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, the other Facebook Companies.

‘We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customise, support, and market our Services and their offerings, including the Facebook Company Products.’

Essentially, this means Facebook will now be able to access account information including your phone number, information on how you interact with other users, and logs of how often and how long you use WhatsApp.

Other data that could be shared with Facebook includes your IP address, browser details, language and time zone.

WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014, and has shared data with its parent company since 2016.

Whatsapp offered a one-time opt-out for data sharing in 2016, but now users are being forced to agree to the privacy policy to continue using the app.

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Many angry WhatsApp users have taken to Twitter to announce their departure from the app, in light of the new privacy policy.

One said: ‘I’ve just deleted Whats App and Instagram from my phone because their new terms and conditions freak me out.’

Another wrote: ‘I deleted my WhatsApp last week. I definitely lost some contacts, and that sucks, but I’ve come to see FB as a criminal enterprise; I can’t afford to give them access to my data.’

And one added: ‘Deleted my WhatsApp today. I’ve been using Signal for a while and think it’s brilliant. hope y’all will join me over there!’

One user said that he had deleted WhatsApp after coming to see Facebook as a 'criminal enterprise'
One user said that he had deleted WhatsApp after coming to see Facebook as a ‘criminal enterprise’

 

Many frustrated WhatsApp users have taken to Twitter to announce their departure from the app
Many frustrated WhatsApp users have taken to Twitter to announce their departure from the app

 

The change to WhatsApp's privacy policy has put many users off using the popular messaging app
The change to WhatsApp’s privacy policy has put many users off using the popular messaging app

According to App Annie, WhatsApp’s ranking in both the UK and US has fallen following the news.

In the US, WhatsApp is now ranked number 38 in the download charts, while it is number 10 in the UK – significantly lower than normal.

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In contrast, both Telegram and Signal have risen up the ranks, and are now numbers 13 and one in the UK download charts, respectively.

Jake Moore, Cybersecurity Specialist at ESET said it was no surprise that many users were deleting WhatsApp following the privacy policy update.

‘Being told that the app is unavailable unless you agree may not always be the best way as people then feel forced to giving away their data,’ he said.

‘We may even see people move away from these apps to more privacy-focused apps which more delicately protect our data.

‘It is incredibly important that users do all they can to protect their private information, and they must realise how damaging it can be if it gets into the wrong hands.’

WhatsApp users outside the UK and Europe will have received this notification this weekUK and European WhatsApp users should have received this notification

If you use WhatsApp you should have received a notification last week, explaining the changes. The notification for users outside the UK and Europe is shown left, while those in the UK and Europe will have received the notification on the right 

WhatsApp has confirmed that users in the UK and Europe will not have their data shared with Facebook.

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Speaking to MailOnline, a WhatsApp spokesperson said: ‘There are no changes to WhatsApp’s data sharing practices in the European region (including UK) arising from the updated Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

‘For the avoidance of any doubt, it is still the case that WhatsApp does not share European region WhatsApp user data with Facebook for the purpose of Facebook using this data to improve its products or advertisements.’

The privacy policy changes will mainly affect the way businesses can communicate with customers on WhatsApp.

The change to the privacy policy has sparked many frustrated WhatsApp users to jump ship to rival apps, including Telegram (pictured) and Signal
The change to the privacy policy has sparked many frustrated WhatsApp users to jump ship to rival apps, including Telegram (pictured) and Signal

When speaking to businesses via WhatsApp, your messages may now be stored and managed on Facebook, if the business is run through this channel.

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However, if that is the case, users should be notified and will be given the option to stop talking to the business if they’d prefer their information was not shared.

In a series of tweets, Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp, explained: ‘It’s important for us to be clear this update describes business communication and does not change WhatsApp’s data sharing practices with Facebook.

‘It does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family wherever they are in the world.’

WhatsApp is encrypted by default, meaning Facebook will not be able to see the contents of your messages.

WhatsApp promotes its Dark Mode for iOS and Android

However, it will be able to see the numbers in your contact list, as well as how often you interact with them.

The notification sent to WhatsApp users last week outlined the new privacy policy, and urged them to ‘Agree’ with the conditions.

It said: ‘By tapping AGREE, you accept the new terms and privacy policy, which take effect on February 8, 2021. After this date, you’ll need to accept these updates to continue using WhatsApp.’

Mirror Online has contacted WhatsApp for further clarification.

BEST WHATSAPP ALTERNATIVES

If you’re considering deleting WhatsApp, you’ll be happy to hear that there are several alternative apps to choose from:

1. Telegram

With more than 400 million users, Telegram is one of the most popular WhatsApp alternatives.

While it looks very similar to WhatsApp, what sets it apart is the fact that it offers even more security.

Messages are end-to-end encrypted, but users also have the option to set messages to self-destruct after a given period of time, leaving no trace.

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2. Signal 

Signal is one of the most secure messaging apps, thanks to the fact that it is open-source.

This means that the code for the app is publicly available to view, making it near-impossible for the app’s creators to sneak in any backdoors that could allow governments or hackers to spy on your messages.

3. iMessage

If you use an iPhone, you may consider simply switching to iMessage, Apple’s own messaging app.

The app has a number of impressive features included no character limits, the ability to send pictures and videos, and of course Apple’s animated emoji feature, Animoji.

Unfortunately, iMessage is only available for iPhone users, so you’ll struggle to interact with anyone using an Android.

4. Google Messages

Google’s answer to iMessage is Google Messages, an Android-only messaging service.

The app replaces your standard SMS app, and integrates with all of Google’s apps and services, making it easy to share images or use Google Assistant.

5. Facebook Messenger

If you were put off using WhatsApp due to its sharing of data with Facebook, Facebook Messenger may not be the best option for you.

However, the app offers a number of helpful features, including games, secret conversations and video calls.

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