I’ll go right ahead and answer the question. I am not one of those who will be leaving whatsapp. Yes, I considered it, everyone was saying they are going to Telegram or Signal. I thought I would too. But I thought of my circles, and esp my family, who most likely would not want to try out another app. It took a lot to get my parents onto whatsapp, now to ask them to download another app? But then, I thought again. I need actual facts. “It’s just science,” my daughter will tell you. I needed “the science” part, so I started to do my own research. For the first time in my life I actually read the Terms of service of this app I had been using for many years, and I must say, I didn’t find enough reason to make me move after comparisons with competition. But before you just go with my decision, let me try to break down my findings for you.
A bit of background; In January, Whatsapp sent an alert for an update in its Terms of Service. This one caused a bigger stir than normal because it had a February deadline for accepting or being forced to leave the platform. Whatsapp has since moved this deadline to later, also admitting to not having used the best way to communicate this. Let’s talk about the biggest scare. Privacy. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I don’t think a lot of people understand what they actually mean when they talk about not wanting to share their information. Whatsapp has always shared information with Facebook. So if you are already using Facebook, or at least visiting their site or watching a video or two from their platform, they are already collecting data from you. So don’t even think about leaving whatsapp because of “privacy”.
This data does not include your messages, groups or calls by the way. In fact, these are encrypted by default, so even if someone hacks their server, they shouldn’t be able to read them.For Telegram, this is not the case. Their messages are not encrypted by default, unless you use secret messages. Check their Terms of Service. Signal on the other end does encrypt. Their messages are encrypted by default. In fact, the same guy behind whatsapp, Brian Acton is the same guy behind the Signal app. He left Whatsapp when he didn’t exactly agree on some privacy practises with Facebook. A story for another day. But yes, the same encryption technology that whatsapp uses, was borrowed from Signal. Signal seems to have a right approach to protecting people’s privacy, but my only concern is their sustainability for a larger audience since they are not exactly a for-profit business. In fact, they already experienced their fair share of issues due to the surge in numbers when the Whatsapp update came. They have since resolved them. But again, they don’t intend to make money so how far can they go in saving and serving this vision to a larger audience?
Also, just by the way, if you leave in Europe or the UK, most of these updates don’t affect you. You people have stronger privacy laws. Talking of Privacy again, I think it’s kind of overrated. This is what I mean. I am not saying Jack and Jill can know where I stay. I am saying where it benefits me, they may know. For example, my bank has my address because I need their services. My car insurance made an app where if I share my location data they can give me a 25% discount by just downloading their app. They monitor my driving. This makes me a better and safer driver because of their tips. Feels like a double benefit for me. This is optional but I chose it because I think it benefits me. Also recently shops have introduced curb-side pickup due to the pandemic. If you use the Walmart app to go pick up groceries, you can drive up to the curb side, make a phone call and someone will bring your groceries. If you share your location, you can do mobile check-in, let them know when you are leaving home and they will know when you arrive and are kind of ready for you. You will get your groceries in less time because they are more ready. Again, mobile check in is optional, but if you can enjoy that 5 – 10 mins difference in convenience, all in exchange for my location data? For me that’s a small price to pay. The other side is me not sharing my name, address, credit card info, location, and having to go inside the store and do groceries by handpicking, spending more time and risking myself more to Covid? Excuse me. They can have my data.
I am not saying be careless with your data online. It’s scary out there. More websites than you think are tracking you. Apple is trying to help, hence the recent wrangle you may have seen between Apple and Facebook lately. If you use the safari browser, you may have noticed from their recent update, just how many trackers they are now automatically preventing to track you on your behalf, by default. The worst part is we hardly realise until the website or apps are really big. The recent social site Clubhouse has its own issues I already noticed but no one is talking about. It’s blowing up because Elon Musk talked about it and wanted to invite Russian president Putin to a chat on the platform. But while it’s still invite only, in order to invite someone they ask you to share your contact details. And you already see suggestions based on some contacts you haven’t invited. They are already using this data for their own good. I think there are many mul-practises out there when it comes to privacy, and whatsapp practices that you are afraid of are just a tip. And for me, not really worth switching over because for me I still benefit. Did I also mention the same data Whatsapp collects, name, platform, location, Telegram also collects and they both clearly mention that on their Terms of service. Difference is whatsapp has a bigger parent company Facebook, that they will share the data with but Telegram says they won’t share with anyone.
I am not a Big Tech boot licker. I still think Big Tech companies take some things too far sometimes. Privacy is a much bigger topic and If I have a big enough audience from this, I might put together another ‘general’ article talking about privacy for a non-techie’s perspective. In closing, it is ok to switch to Telegram or Signal if you really have to. But just know there is still a lot more out there that is leaking the same privacy you are trying to protect. Do your own reading before you commit to online services, including just using Google. For now, I’ll keep my Whatsapp and maintain my family contacts. And continue enjoying Whatsapp Status 🙂 . Does Telegram have something similar?