We remind WhatsApp of its assurance to “know as little as possible” before its acquisition by Facebook. The information that WhatsApp is collecting and now intends to share with Facebook and other companies under its ownership includes the location data, IMEI numbers of mobile devices, battery information, groups that the users are participating in, signal strength, phone model, profile pictures of the users, the last time users were online, and similar metadata.
We remind the WhatsApp team of the promise made to its users in 2014, when the CEO of WhatsApp, Jan Koum said that “If partnering with Facebook meant that we had to change our values, we wouldn’t have done it.” We remind WhatsApp that the mandatory data sharing and Facebook’s own control of this data is a direct violation of the spirit of upholding user privacy.
We are especially concerned due to Facebook’s record of engagement with data related global controversies regarding privacy and data leaks, including but not limited to the Cambridge Analytica incident.
We remain concerned about the data sharing, specifically since Facebook has failed to appropriately respond to civil society calls of increased transparency regarding third party data sharing with third parties.
We reiterate that global corporations like Facebook, that have evolved to capture a huge share of the global digital market and enjoy a level of indepensibility for users who are dependent on these platforms for business and livelihood, remain cognisant of their human rights responsibilities and work to protect, rather than endanger the privacy rights of their consumers.
We, as advocates of privacy, as longtime users of WhatsApp, and as concerned individuals are disturbed at the fact that the one app that has intrinsically changed the way people communicate in the modern world has, it seems, drastically changed its stance with regards to privacy after the acquisition by Facebook Inc. We urge WhatsApp to review the new policy that prioritises profits at the cost of the privacy of billions of users
We also urge the users of WhatsApp to consider switching to alternate communication apps, especially the ones that truly respect users’ privacy, are open source, and ensure a higher level of transparency and accountability.