WhatsApp information sharing – A Threat to Users’ Privacy

WhatsApp Logo. Image source: Whatsapp.com

– by Amit Srivastava

Sept 09, 2016: In absence of proper privacy laws for social media and e-commerce companies and complicated prosecution process, big MNCs are taking full leverage of situation to gather, share and market the Indian users’ personal details. Google and Facebook are leading companies involved in manipulation of users’ information.

Recently, it was announced that popular messenger WhatsApp will share information with the Facebook. This has caused an uproar in many countries as it is a direct breach of privacy. On this potential violation, US Federal Trade Commission is reviewing a joint complaint from two consumer privacy groups. European Union regulators have also affirmed that indicated European users need to remain in charge of their personal data.

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In India, such privacy breach generally goes unchallenged. However, in a rare instance, the matter has been contested in Delhi high court by two users Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi. On their petition against WhatsApp’s recent decision to share user data with parent company Facebook, Delhi High Court has sought the government’s response regarding the modification. A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra has issued a notice to the Centre and asked the concerned authorities to file their reply by September 14.

Hence it is suggested to every Indian user must opt out of personal information sharing. In India also, Facebook has shared user’s information of Whatsapp with Facebook, without any prior intimation. To avoid this imposed privacy breach, follow these steps:

(i) Go to Whatsapp Settings
(ii) Click on Accounts
(iii) Uncheck “share my account info”

Every WhatsApp users must do it now. Else your personal chat, photos, and videos could be shared with Facebook. Please Alert and inform others about this.
Existing WhatsApp users have time until September 25, 2016, to click through this update and agree or not agree to Facebook using their WhatsApp data to suggest friends and serve ads.

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After this particular date, the company might automatically share the users’ details with Facebook.  Hope, we will have appropriate privacy laws soon to tame top violators like Google and Facebook. Till then, be vigilant about your online privacy.

This abrupt policy change is made, as Facebook eyes to make more profit and this is so because Whatsapp is a more personalised form of staying connected to people. The information, content and the activities of every user are added in ‘Big Data’ of the company. They use this Big Data to earn advertisements, market surveys, consumers profiling and others profit making exchanges. With his change, the arena of Social Media has become more vulnerable and insecure. We need to be extra cautious while putting any personal details even on personal messaging platforms like WhatsApp!     

– Amit is a Freelancer based in India. Twitter: @amisri