In 2014, Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 Billion. Already a popular app back then, people wondered why a company like Facebook was acquiring a messaging app when they already had their own ‘Messenger’ app. The very expensive acquisition also raised eyebrows: what was Facebook’s end goal?
Jan Koum, WhatsApp CEO and Co-founder then said nothing would change and that “WhatsApp (would) remain autonomous and operate independently“. Four years later, in 2018, he quit after clashing over encryption, advertising and privacy with Facebook. Well, starting February 8th 2021, you will have two options if you use WhatsApp: either quit the app completely, or accept to have your personal data shared between Facebook’s family of apps and services.
Your personal data which WhatsApp will be collecting and sharing includes, but may not be limited to:
- Your Phone model
- Location data
- Battery level
- Browser type used
- Your Internet Service Provider
- Your mobile network
- Your IP address
- Operating System
- Time Zone
- Network Signal Strength
- Including whom you message or call, what groups you are part of, your Statuses and those you view, profile photos, last seen times, and much more.
With no option to opt out, Facebook is out here flexing its muscle, and bullying us to accepting its new policies with WhatsApp. If we don’t like it, the only option we have is to quit the app completely. So how can we make everyone quit?
I’m sure you’ve read numerous articles online of very many people calling it quits on different Facebook products. And they’re good articles with great arguments about the various ways Facebook is collecting lots of information, spreading fake news, allowing far-right groups to grow, and much more. But these articles never do much in changing how people use these apps, or in convincing people to quit these apps.
The fact is this: Facebook is just too big. There’s nothing we can do to make the billions of people who use Instagram, Facebook or WhatsApp quit because of privacy concerns. While more people are learning about privacy and the ways in which companies can use and abuse the data they collect from us whether we know it or not, the vast majority of internet users don’t see it as a big issue, or don’t take it that seriously. That’s why most people who see the WhatsApp pop-up notification on the new policies will click AGREE without bothering. Those who don’t will still either way be forced to accept come February 8th.
The funny thing is that those in the European Union (EU) and in Britain won’t have the same issues. According to Facebook, European and UK users will not see the same data-sharing changes as the rest of the world. And that’s thanks to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which prohibits apps from sharing data with third parties.
This shows that there’s need to have such data protection laws, because such laws protect millions of consumers who may not read the incredibly hard to understand terms and conditions, or who may be bullied to accept as Facebook is currently doing.
According to UNCTAD, 128 out of 194 countries have put in place legislation to secure the protection of data and privacy. Some of these data laws are really good, even having provisions for how apps handle user data. And Facebook is knowingly breaching most of the them, because they know nothing can be done.
In Kenya for example, the Data Protection Act of 2019 gives users the power to choose whether or not to accept new terms. Users’ choice not to accept new terms should not hinder them from using the services. It can therefore be argued that Facebook is breaking the law here, forcing them to rescind their decision.
So, while it is nearly impossible to make billions of users delete WhatsApp, it is entirely possible to control the way big companies handle our data, and force them to do what’s right. And it starts by calling out on governments to take action both in drafting data laws, and in making sure apps adhere to them.
Check out this thread by Lawyer Mugambi Laibuta: