Beginning of the end for WhatsApp?

Will WhatsApp be affected by the app's new privacy changes?

Tags: IDF WhatsApp
Amichai Ben-David ,

Illustration
Illustration
ISTOCK

If you have WhatsApp on your smartphone, you may have already received a notification updating you of its privacy changes authorizing the company to use information you transmit via the popular app.

Unlike of past updates, this time around, no prior warning will be provided, with the app ceasing to work on your phone beginning February 8 without if you fail to approve the policy change prior to that date.

So what does this mean for you? Should you give special consideration to what you store on the app? By and large this means that WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, wants to utilize more of our personal data to provide relevant advertising. That's the most common method for companies providing access to sophisticated apps such as YouTube, Gmail, Google, Facebook and WhatsApp to monetize their campaigns.

The problem, though, is that WhatsApp users tend to store a lot of sensitive data on their apps, creating serious risks of information leaks. In Israel, WhatsApp is commonly used by government ministries, the IDF, Israel's health system, and other classified services.

In practice, the risk of approving new company terms of service appear low for individual users, since government agencies, financial services, and other high-risk industries are the only ones who really need a high level of confidentiality. These tend to stay away from digital platforms as it were. Privacy updates or security breaches on WhatsApp immediately raise the possibility that users will opt to turn to competing services, however.

WhatsApp's direct competitor, Telegram, has about a million users in Israel. Every time WhatsApp crashes, whether for a few hours or days, numerous accounts are opened, with many joining thanks to the app's access to news and movie channels as well as Telegrass, a cannabis distribution network with over 200,000 local users.

Some choose Telegram over WhatsApp because it enables chat history to be viewed by new members of a group or channel, its ability to transfer significantly larger files than WhatsApp, as well as a feature allowing access from a browser even while your smartphone is off unlike WhatsApp Web which requires a mobile connection.

After the app's announcement of its new terms of use, many in Israel and around the world are considering making the move to competing apps. Will they pull the plug on WhatsApp? Only time will tell.



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