Not many would read this policy. It is tedious. Many will click “accept” without knowing the implications of their actions.
The new policy caused controversies. Most people think that Facebook and WhatsApp have other intentions. One, to increase their “tracking of individuals”; and second, to sell users’ data to third party companies. One can’t tell if these are mere conspiracies, but it’s a moot point.
WhatsApp further stated that people must abide by this new policy adjustments or lose their ability to use their app on or before February 8, 2021. They also added that this affects users only outside the European Union and the United Kingdom.
When I send messages to friends and family, I do not expect anyone to read these messages or use them for any marketing or process them further. I send them in the hope that these messages are sent through encrypted methods and not necessarily and readily available to anyone who works with Facebook. It is merely a violation of privacy and human freedom. This is what many users of WhatsApp are saying at least.
This announcement led to what Telegram founder, Pavel Durov, described as “the largest digital migration in human history”. There was a rapid migration to other messaging apps. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, even tweeted, “Use Signal”, thereby advising his followers to switch from WhatsApp to Signal. Signal is a rival messaging app which saw an increase of 7.5 million installs from across the app store and Google play immediately WhatsApp released their story. In the space of just 72 hours of WhatsApp’s announcement, Telegram recorded 25 million new users, pushing the total number of users above 500 million.
Facebook should have carried out a survey and made decisions based on that survey. The aim of the survey would have been to carry the people along in the making of the best suitable privacy policies. At the moment, and from the masses’ reaction, one can conclude that Facebook’s action was not welcomed and ill-conceived.
In terms of reputation, I think Facebook and WhatsApp keep smearing their image with regards to data privacy. Mark Zuckerberg and his team need to lean into their privacy frameworks and produce the best policies that promote users’ autonomy over their data.
Facebook might want to ride on legitimate interests and contractual obligations as their lawful basis of processing such information, but it denigrates their overall privacy mission and vision.
There is a lesson to be learnt here. For starters, this particular saga shows that people now know their rights with regards to their data. If their data is used incorrectly, there is a price to pay.
Companies who process customers’ information will continue to be held accountable for the end-to-end management of these assets by both customers and regulators. Only companies with simple and clear policies, secure procedures and the right technological stack to enhance these policies, will retain loyal customers. The future is only bright for companies, in summary, willing to adhere to the proper privacy standards.