Remember when WhatsApp had a reputation for privacy and security? Then it sold out to Facebook, and people who are concerned about privacy and security moved to another app like Signal. Facebook still likes to boast about WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption—which isn’t so end-to-end after all—but the company has very little to say about the app’s data collection in general.
Thanks to Apple (never thought I’d say that; then again, I never thought I’d be shopping for Equipment Hunt: Trucks and Excavators, but that’s what I’m doing these days), we now have a pretty good idea of what WhatsApp is doing with our data. As I wrote in a recent post, Apple is changing its system so that users are better informed about how their private and personal data is being exploited by the apps they download. Facebook is very angry about this, so much so that they’ve waged a public jihad against Apple under the ridiculous pretense of “standing up for small businesses.”
But I digress. We were discussing WhatsApp. If you go to Apple’s App Store and select WhatsApp, you’re shown a notification with a list of data points gathered and stored by the app. “The developer,” the notification reads, “indicated that the app’s privacy practices may include handling of data as described below.”
Under the heading “Data Linked to You” is written “The following data may be collected and linked to your identity.” And below that is a list including:
That’s what WhatsApp collects from your device. That’s a lot of data. Essentially, WhatsApp uses everything except actual text messages to track you and learn about your behavior, preferences, location, etc. In other words, there is really nothing “private” or “secure” about WhatsApp. Which should come as no surprise, given that it’s owned by Facebook, one of the most expansive surveillance operations in human history.
On the other hand, Signal, the app I mentioned before, is not nearly as intrusive. According to Apple, it collects far less data, and any data that it does collect is not linked to the user.