South Africa

MESSAGE MANIA

Why you don’t need to join the great WhatsApp migration

The rapid emergence of artificial intelligence tech tools across Africa coupled with powerful social media platforms such as Facebook, Reddit and Twitter has made data a commodity, according to the author. (Illustrative image. Photos: EPA-EFE/RITCHIE B. TONGO)

No, silly, they can’t see your messages! Expert Emma Sadleir debunks WhatsApp privacy policy myths.

Virtual crowds have gathered on Facebook and Facebook Messenger – which collects more data than WhatsApp – to object to WhatsApp collecting the same amount of data.

If they had listened to the experts many could have been spared being swept up in a wild international spike in hysteria and the mass migration from WhatsApp (bought by Facebook a few years ago) to Telegram and Signal. 

One of those experts is Emma Sadleir, founder of the Digital Law Company who specialises in education about that liminal space – online and social media groups.

By 11 January 2021 Sadleir had been so inundated with questions and messages that she wanted to address some of the “unfounded” hysteria in an online tutorial.

And no, your WhatsApp messages are encrypted so no one will be able to access or read them or gaze in amazement at the vanilla cake you just baked. 

What WhatsApp will be able to do is see how frequently you contact someone, and perhaps later suggest them as a friend on Facebook, even though you will probably never meet and be friends in real life.

People who have migrated to Telegram, said Sadlier, had better brace themselves since the platform would soon monetise. And the bad news for the Telegrammers is that it allows larger groups than WhatsApp. 

The only thing Signal collects is your number, so for those wishing to fly below the radar, it’s your corner. DM

Gallery

Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 19

  • what terrible advice. It is UN-CLEAR from the change in the WA privacy policy document that the private encryption key will now be held by you ALONE.
    It used to say that specifically, but now that sentence is gone. hence they will potentially be able to read your messages. It doesnt matter that its a vanilla cake recipe, the intention is to read what you say, where you are and who you connect with.

    SIGNAL is a not-for profit, and since Elon Musk with is 40M legion of followers promoted it (last thursday), its thanks to him that SIGNAL will achieve critical mass of having enough users on it to be useful. So Yes, to break the tracking of you life, you SHOULD join everyone else and move to signal. we are being given one chance to break out of the FB tracking of messaging apps. use it. get behind it. its a net positive to the humanity.
    Telegram is for other things. ignore that. its very unlikely to get critical mass of users to become defaut like WA is now.

    If you arent VERY concerned about FB and online activity tracking for data re-sale, and advertising, you should lift your head out of the sand. Emma Sadleir, unfortunately doesnt see or talk about the root problem or the opportunity. She might as well work in the Digital social media tracking industry. oh, yea – i forgot she does. Nothing wrong with that per se, but readers of her message must notice where her message is coming from.

  • YEAH BUT THAT’S NOT THE POINT. The new Ts&Cs specifically give fb access to data on two other things, not message-content related: (1) purchase transactions, including delivery addresses, when you purchase anything through the platform (OK, big deal, so don’t do that, but wait, there’s more) (2) *your entire contacts list on your phone,* including all their details like phone nos and addresses. Now that *IS* a big deal. Ms Sadleir should do a little more research before dismissing the “hysteria”.

  • Prepare yourself and your contacts for a flood of targeted advertising if you stay on WhatsApp. The only good thing I can see is that it may perhaps become a competitor to Google for business’ advertising budgets. But still… no thanks. Facebook is not Google and while Google indeed dropped their “Don’t be evil” slogan years ago, Zuckerberg can never erase the historical fact that he started out with a website rating women on campus. Nice, huh? Leopard doesn’t change its spots. Bye bye WhatsApp.

  • Agree with others that this isn’t really the point. It’s what they DO with our data; not only commercially, but also politically. Eg Facebook playing no small role in DJ Trump’s rise to power and Brexit and who knows what else.

  • There are too many holes in the article to go through. The following is readilly available to view on the internet.
    Who collects what:

    —-WhatsApp Data Collection
    Device ID
    User ID
    Advertising Data
    Purchase History
    Coarse Location
    Phone Number
    Email Address
    Contacts
    Product Interaction
    Crash Data
    Performance Data
    Other Diagnostic Data
    Payment Info
    Customer Support
    Product Interaction
    Other User Content

    —-Telegram Data Collection
    Contact Info
    Contacts
    User ID

    —-Signal Data Collection
    None
    It only stores your phone number

  • Sadleir is naive about the potential for the collected data to be used for evil purposes. FB has proven to all of us that they have no scrouples and will sell your data to anyone who pays – be that brexiteers, fashists or fake news russians (just to mention the few). This article and the video are misleading and wrong about the dangers the new WhatsApp policies represent. The new WhatsApp terms are a big deal already and they are only the beginning. We can expect FB to expand the terms over time to gain access to ever more of your metadata. Delete your FB account now and uninstall WhatsApp!

  • WhatsApp collected data will be used to add value to what is already harvested from you via Facebook – it’s a 1 + 1 = 3 story.

    So the solution is easy – delete your Facebook account – you really don’t need it. That way, WhatsApp has a collection of data whose value has gone down just like its reputation ….

    • Definitely a consideration. I don’t care for the social aspect of FB but some businesses use it.
      Signal is otherwise preferred alternative to WA if you want to get away from Shark *uckerberg. But the average sheeple will just stay where they are.

  • Like most things in life, this is another first step in a long journey to message control?
    Facebook is an unwanted parasitic entity designed to bend ones mind through unwanted and unappreciated control and direction of advertising.

  • I would love to know why GDPR protects the EU citizens from this, but POPI does not do the same for SA citizens – when by all accounts POPI is a stricter version of GDPR. Or is it just South Africa’s poor reputation for pursuing legal breaches?

  • Thanks for that info Terry Reynolds. Can you or someone please answer this question. I’ve never used any social media, Facebook, Instagram, twitter, etc., only WhatsApp, where access to my location is switched off.

    Which of the items on your list will WhatsApp be able to collect.

    Observation: Remember Skype? Who still uses it? WhatsApp pretty well drove the last nail into it’s coffin.
    In a few years time when Telegram and Signal have so many users that they become attractive for someone like Zuckerberg to purchase, will they be able to resist the pressure to sell. Then we’ll go through all the same privacy issues again. Seems like this is humankind’s lot for the foreseeable future.

  • I think the point is missed – “It’s the out of control tech giant that need to be dumped, e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp.” We surrendered privacy knowingly and carelessly long ago. Now it is just plan freedom from big tech/media that we need. We need small guys. As so clearly stated recently in the Maverick – “God bless incompetent idiots (the small guys), for they will save the world from better-organised conspiracies that would cause lasting damage.”
    Branko Brkic

  • WhatsApp text and video messages are only encrypted until they are backed up.
    If you need to fly below the radar, use voice only or don’t allow text and video back up. To stop back up go to WhatsApp, Settings, Chats, Chat Backup (here you can read how it works) Go to Auto Backup and select option Off.
    If you were not on Off, your text and video messages have been saved and are not encrypted. I believe the authorities can legally access these messages should evidence in connection with criminal activity be required.