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WhatsApp information sharing – A Threat to Users’ Privacy

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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

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Social Networking Giant Facebook Sharing Users’ Data with Telecom Firms, Phone Makers

The database contained 49 million records of several high-profile influencers, including prominent food bloggers, celebrities and other social media influencers

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Facebook, photos
This photograph taken on May 16, 2018, shows a figurine standing in front of the logo of social network Facebook on a cracked screen of a smartphone in Paris. VOA

A confidential Facebook document reviewed by The Intercept has revealed that the social networking giant is offering private data of its users without their knowledge or consent to 100 different telecom companies and phone makers in 50 countries.

Confidential documents seen by the website showed late Monday that Facebook is helping operators and phone makers “create targeted advertising by supplying them with surveillance data slurped directly from users’ smartphones”.

Not only that, the social networking giant is also collecting data from its main iOS and Android apps, Messenger and Instagram apps — even snooping into the phones of children as young as 13.

Through a tool called “Actionable Insights”, Facebook is allegedly collecting data including technical details about smartphones, cellular and Wi-Fi networks used by Facebook users, locations visited social groups and interests.

Facebook reacted in a statement late Monday: “We do not, nor have we ever, rated people’s credit worthiness for Actionable Insights or across ads, and Facebook does not use people’s credit information in how we show ads”.

According to the report, “the data has been used by Facebook partners to assess their standing against competitors, including customers lost to and won from them, but also for more controversial uses like racially targeted ads”.

Facebook launched “Actionable Insights” tool last year “to address the issue of weak cellular data connections in various parts of the world.”

“The confidential Facebook document shows how the programme, ostensibly created to help improve underserved cellular customers, is pulling in far more data than how many bars you’re getting,” said the report.

Facebook
Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the Viva Tech start-up and technology summit in Paris, France, May 24, 2018. VOA

“The Facebook mobile app harvests and packages eight different categories of information for use by over 100 different telecom companies in over 50 different countries around the world, including usage data from the phones of children as young as 13,” the report claimed.

These categories include use of video, demographics, location, use of Wi-Fi and cellular networks, personal interests, device information, and friend homophily, an academic term of art.

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From these categories, a third party vendor could learn an extraordinary amount about patterns of users’ daily life.

The news came after Facebook’s photo-sharing service Instagram saw itself in trouble as personal data of millions of celebrities and influencers were allegedly exposed on its platform in a massive database that was traced to Mumbai-based social media marketing firm Chtrbox.

The database contained 49 million records of several high-profile influencers, including prominent food bloggers, celebrities and other social media influencers, TechCrunch reported. (IANS)