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Is Data Security Nothing But An Illusion?


Are you leaving WhatsApp and downloading new chat platforms in search of a secure experience?

Is there any guarantee that Telegram or Signal may not be hacked in the future?

How far is “Encryption” flawless?

Next time when any of the new apps you have shifted to being compromised, which chat or social media app do you have on your mind?

  • What was secure yesterday is not secure today and what is secure today will not be secure tomorrow.
  • Your personal and sensitive information is always at the mercy of – apps, mobile operating systems, public Wi-Fi, Cloud, and physical data centers.

Why is WhatsApp in the news right now for the wrong reasons and why are users abandoning WhatsApp for other platforms?

Reason being “The privacy and security of your personal messaging”

WhatsApp: What Is Up?

Look around you! Can you count the number of people with no electronics in hand?

What’s really happening around us? Who is dictating our lives?

  • Instead of communicating with people in a face-to-face manner, we’re constantly staring at tablets
  • Typing away on touchscreen keyboards, and
  • Gluing smartphones to our ears.
  • Posting status updates
  • Taking ‘selfies’…

It’s like life has become a big game to see who can get the most ‘likes’, ‘comments’, or ‘retweets’ and this then dictates your popularity and your self-esteem. These social networks are now dictating people’s lives and their actual human feelings.

How do we risk allowing ourselves to become a vast network of informants on each other and ourselves?

In a digital age where our lives are broadcasted for everyone to see, we want to make sure everyone knows where we are and what we’re doing. As a result, we spend more time projecting an image than enjoying experiences.

  • The gadgets that we use track our every move, erasing important aspects of privacy and free speech in our social and political lives.
  • The corporate internet giants gather data to maximize profits from our consumer habits, from grocery shopping to TV viewing patterns.
  • Just like trawlers with dragnets, all sorts of other collateral data gets hauled in along the way.
  • Data surveillance, once intangible and invisible, now blatantly announces its presence in our everyday lives.
  • Mobile accessories and the interconnectivity between gadgets and appliances in our homes – the internet of things – create an unprecedented network of tracking devices capturing data for commerce and government.
  • Think about GPS-based location tracking on your mobile phone; think about social media apps where we broadcast our spontaneous thoughts, social lives, and relationships.

The fact: That billions of us now use a handful of corporate-owned global platforms to manage pretty much every aspect of our daily lives indicates how fast the potential of digital culture is shrinking.

The Story: Whatsapp and Facebook:

Facebook has grown so huge that it was able to purchase other social media companies for itself. It started with Instagram in 2012 for a whopping $1 billion dollars and then 2 years later they snapped up WhatsApp for almost $20 billion dollars.

The idea behind Facebook purchasing these companies: To expand its empire across social media.

It took on WhatsApp in particular,

  • Because of how fast it was growing.
  • Facebook thought WhatsApp could have 1 billion users in a few years. (Facebook itself only has 1.2 billion users.)
  • With more than a third of the world using WhatsApp, its popularity is unrivaled.


WhatsApp Privacy Policy and Security

  • It also does a lot more than “text-messaging”.
  • It allows users to send photos, videos, and voicemails to each other.
  • In short, it allows users to do a lot of what Facebook does.
  • So, Facebook bought “the next Facebook”.

For years, WhatsApp’s founder Jan Koum insisted that it wouldn’t be used to harvest data for advertisers.

In 2012, he said, “these days companies know literally everything about you, your friends, your interests, and they use it all to sell ads.

“WhatsApp still insisted that It won’t allow third-party banner ads on the app, and claimed its end-to-end encryption means it can’t read or store users’ messages, nor share them with third parties.

O.K! Do You Know – What Does WhatsApp Collect From you?

WhatsApp can collect a lot more information about you than you might think. Much of what it collects is similar to any other app and can be found in its privacy policy. WhatsApp collects more information about you than it shares with Facebook. Most of this is metadata, which can reveal a lot about user behavior.

The company’s privacy policy says: WhatsApp gathers information about how you interact with others on its services (the time, frequency, and duration of interactions with others) and some diagnostic information about app crashes and info such as:

  • Statuses you set
  • Group features
  • Your profile photo
  • When you’re online
  • Phone’s battery level
  • Signal strength
  • Mobile operator
  • Location info (if turned on)
  • Cookies that track your activity within the desktop and web versions of the app.

Now as the app is also part of Facebook’s machine, and this information can be combined with other data you give Facebook, through the social network but also its other products, including Instagram.

Facebook looks to merge the infrastructure between WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram’s messaging.

WhatsApp now says,

  • Your phone number from WhatsApp,
  • Device information (including the type of phone, mobile country code, and operating system),
  • Some of your usage information (when you last used WhatsApp, when you registered, and how often your messages are shared with other Facebook companies.

Now WhatsApp has put its users on notice that,

  • It will soon begin sharing its phone numbers, and selected other data, with its parent company.
  • This information will then be used to offer customers “more relevant” Facebook ads, new “ways for people to communicate with businesses” via the app, and new friend suggestions, etc., etc.
  • WhatsApp said that “by coordinating more with Facebook, we’ll be able to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam”.
  • The change seems set in stone for new sign-ups, but existing users will apparently have the chance to opt-out of the chance to “improve your Facebook ads and product experiences.” Once the updated terms and privacy policy have been accepted in-app, users have 30 days to opt-out.

So, Mark Zuckerberg now has the most popular messaging app with over 1 billion monthly users, the most popular photo-sharing app, and the biggest competitor to Snapchat (Instagram) which also has over 1 billion monthly users and owns Facebook which has a total of over 2 billion monthly users.

  • He has made it a “personal” project to make messaging cross-platform on these channels a real thing, as it will effectively make his life a lot easier and lead the way in marketing.
  • The idea is to bring all of its billions of users into one big pool, to deliver a streamlined messaging experience, and allow users to talk to friends/family even if they don’t have the same app.
  • It’ll allow users to Instagram DM people from inside WhatsApp and so on and so forth.

The changes WhatsApp and Facebook are making will affect a lot of people. It announced in August that it had abandoned its principled pro-privacy stance and would share data with its new parent and others in the “Facebook family of companies”. Some might consider it’ll give them a better service, others may be concerned by the lack of control. WhatsApp will do what it once said would never happen: let businesses use the messaging app to serve ads to users.

  • The phone number associated with a user’s WhatsApp account will be used on Facebook to show them ads.
  • This will form part of the targeting the company allows for paying advertisers, who can upload contact databases.
  • Those who use Facebook and are in the contact database uploaded by the advertiser will then be shown the targeted ads.
  • The information will also be used to show how people interact with a specific ad, but Facebook said that it would not tell advertisers who specifically interacted with the ad.
  • WhatsApp and Facebook accounts will remain separate.
  • The service will not be merged with Facebook’s other chat-based service Messenger or photo-sharing service Instagram. But all services under Facebook will gain access to WhatsApp users’ phone numbers and other account information, and it can be used to suggest contacts be added as friends.

When a user’s WhatsApp phone number is shared, his account will be used on Facebook to show them ads.

  • At every company that sells ads, a significant portion of their engineering team spends their day tuning data mining,
  • Writing better code to collect all your personal data,
  • Upgrading the servers that hold all the data and making sure it’s all being,
  • Logged and collated and sliced and packaged and shipped out…
  • And at the end of the day, the result of it all is a slightly different advertising banner in your browser or on your mobile screen. Remember, when advertising is involved you the user are the product.
  • People will be pushed in different directions by advertisers, who will segment us in ways so that people will not even be aware of certain products others use.
  • We will receive different news, again exacerbated by the prevalence of fake news that is exceedingly difficult to discern from reality.”

We know we are being watched by the corporate apparatuses of Google, Facebook, WhatsApp (now owned by Facebook), Twitter, Apple and Amazon, and so on…

It’s not too late to ask “Can we live without our technologies?”

We are certainly inconvenienced or worse when our technologies fail.

When technologies bite back, we wonder what should or could have been done?