What’s up with WhatsApp?

By Michael Byrne, Senior Security Specialist, NETCONFIG.

whatsapp data changes
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WhatsApp Privacy Update – What does it mean?

We spoke to Michael Byrne from NETCONFIG (Network Configurations) about the new WhatsApp changes that are forcing users to accept the new Privacy Terms and Conditions. We asked him what they actually meant?

“Well, let’s first understand what data privacy is, and what rules govern these data regulations. Data privacy relates to how a certain piece of information is stored, shared, and used online like your name, surname, location, and even something as critical as your health information. Many websites and applications that you install will require this information from you before allowing you access to their resources or services, and most of the time, this information is shared with third-party advertising businesses.

Now, there are laws in place that govern how information is shared, stored, and used, some of these laws include the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and POPIA (Protection of Personal Information Act). Businesses who collect and store Personal Identifiable Information of any person have to abide by these Data Protection Laws and may not share or use this information without the user’s CONSENT. Notice the keyword “Consent”, we as users give our consent when we click the “Accept or Agree” buttons on those applications.

So let’s get back to the WhatsApp changes, and what their new Privacy Terms and Conditions entail.

From February 8th, 2021, all WhatsApp users will have to accept the new Terms and Conditions to continue using WhatsApp. These new Terms and Conditions state that your information will be shared with Facebook Companies which includes Instagram. Some of the information shared will be as follows;

  • Account registration information, such as phone number
  • Operations data
  • Information related to the service
  • Information on how the user interacts with others, including companies
  • Information about the mobile device (battery charge, internet service provider, signal strength, hardware model, operating system, etc.)
  • IP Address
So how will this affect you and why should you care?

Well, if you are someone like me who likes to keep your personal information online limited, WhatsApp is no longer your trusted friend. From February 8th, 2021, all the above information will be shared with all Facebook companies to “Improve their Services” which we all know is a nice way of saying Advertising. Facebook has always looked for opportunities to advertise to the end-user, and now by including WhatsApp into that mixing bowl, we will be sure to see a lot more adverts pop up on Facebook relating to conversations or media we have shared on WhatsApp. If you have ever watched “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix, that opportunity for advertisers to build your Internet Profile just got better, and if you haven’t watched it, then I highly recommend you go and do so to get a better understanding of what you are in for.

But what if I don’t use Facebook or Instagram?

Even for those Internet Rebels who have opted out of Social Media completely, your information will still be collected and used and stored on the Internet. And from some online chatter, we may even see adverts coming to WhatsApp.

So, if you are the type of person that does not mind your information being collected and used online, and possibly monitored then please continue as normal. I will leave you with this last little internet cliché we love so much, “If you’re not paying for the Product, you are the Product”.

Michael Byrne is the Senior Security SpecialiMichael Byrne, Netconfigst with NETCONFIG (Network Configurations).

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