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WhatsApp Again Says Conversations Are Absolutely Private and End-to-End Encrypted

News18
·3-min read

WhatsApp's data policy debate just doesn't seem to end, with WhatsApp constantly reminding users that the change does not affect their privacy and that their chats will remain end-to-end encrypted. In yet another announcement, WhatsApp posted a story on WhatsApp itself saying that the app can't read or listen to users' personal conversations and can't see people's shared location, among other things.

"We are committed to your privacy. WhatsApp can't read or listen to your personal conversations as they are end-to-end encrypted. WhatsApp can't see your location and doesn't share your contacts with Facebook," the Facebook-owned instant messaging platform said in a four-part status on WhatsApp. Before this, a WhatsApp spokesperson’s statement had earlier this week claimed that the company’s updated policy “does not expand the ability to share data with Facebook.” Earlier, the ministry of electronics and information technology of India (MeitY) wrote to WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart, asking for the new policy to be revoked or withdrawn, at least for Indian users.

The latest response from WhatsApp on this topic states, “Our aim is to provide transparency and new options available to engage with businesses so they can serve their customers and grow. WhatsApp will always protect personal messages with end-to-end encryption so that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see them. We are working to address misinformation and remain available to answer any questions.”

Ever since stumbling into a major cross-current of controversy with its new privacy and data sharing policy, WhatsApp has repeatedly attempted to convince people with advertisements and multiple media statements, saying that it remains efficient as always to protect the data of users with end-to-end encryption. However, privacy and security advocates around the world have since highlighted WhatsApp’s collection of user metadata in the background, which the Indian government has also highlighted in recent times as to how it represents a significant threat to the general safety of user data on the app.

WhatsApp, however, has claimed that its new policy does not state anything new for personal consumers. Instead, its new policy only affects businesses, and it in fact expands the ability for small businesses on WhatsApp to share certain prior-agreed data with Facebook to expand the scope of business. The Facebook group has also previously attempted to show itself as the messiah of small businesses by opposing a clearly privacy-focused move by Apple, which has mandated that starting with the latest iOS 14 update, any app looking to silently collect user data on various operations in the background will need to take approval from users.

As WhatsApp remains adamantly stuck at shoving end-to-end encryption and small businesses as answers to its significant and very real data security concerns, it remains to be seen if the ongoing controversy eventually ends up making a significant dent on the numbers that the app has enjoyed so far. WhatsApp still enjoys an overwhelmingly powerful market position, but competing privacy-centric services such as Signal and Telegram have witnessed sharp growth rates in the very recent times.