Technology: Severe Restrictions loom for WhatsApp Users as May 15 Deadline Nears

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Users of the instant messaging service WhatsApp may have reasons to worry as the May 15, 2021, deadline, a day the company set to roll out the new terms and privacy policies, approaches. Since the beginning of the year, the Facebook-owned company has been rallying the app users to accept the newly updated terms and conditions before the specified period to avoid any inconvenience. Initially, the new privacy policies supposed to come into force on February 8; the effective date was pushed to May by the company due to users’ backlash.

Policy Changes

“As part of the Facebook family of companies, WhatsApp receives information from and shares information with this family of companies. We may use the information we receive from them. They may use the information we share with them to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings.” “The messenger service has been sharing data with Facebook for years, but only recently did the company reveal the details in their policy change.” The company was quoted on January 4.

The changes highlighted by the messaging platforms include transformation in communication with businesses, how WhatsApp shares your data on Facebook and its products, and additional information on how WhatsApp handles your data. In the new policies, WhatsApp will share users’ data with Facebook companies. Some of the information to be shared are your personal information, transaction data, information on how you interact with others, mobile device information, and your IP address.

Messages

The American messaging service app will also temporarily store forwarded messages in encrypted form on their servers to improve the delivery of additional forwards efficiency. It will further store undelivered data on their servers for 30 days, and after that, it will be automatically deleted. However, the changes will not interfere with the customers’ security and privacy, and the messages on the platform are to be in encrypted form. 

The company had started to notify its subscribers about the new privacy policy and asked them to accept the new changes. The purpose of the notifications was to equally to avoid likely misinformation or misconception about the upcoming updates.

“We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way. Instead, this update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data,” WhatsApp revealed via the company’s blog.

Take it or Leave it

The upcoming new terms and conditions are not optional; all users must accept them or quit the app. TechCrunch reported that users who will fail to comply with the new rules by May 15 would not enjoy the app’s full functionality. They will only receive calls and notifications for a short period but will not be in a position to read or send messages.

After the deadline, the company will classify accounts of those who have not accepted the policies as inactive and delete them automatically after 120 days. Alternatively, one may download their chat history and shift to another application of their choice. Such a condition has outraged many WhatsApp subscribers. Some privacy activists are now calling on WhatsApp users to change to other platforms.

“An internet connection is required for an account to be active. If a user has WhatsApp open on their device, but they don’t have an internet connection, then the account will be inactive,” the company was further quoted.

Benefit to rivals

Changes to privacy terms by WhatsApp have become a benefit to its rivals. Many WhatsApp users are worrisome of the controversial move due to Facebook’s poor record in handling personal data. The majority of the users are moving to other platforms to search for privacy, which they alleged WhatsApp no longer has. Telegram and Signal are some of the primary beneficiaries of an exodus of users from WhatsApp. The latter, on January 18, revealed that its user base increased from 10 million to over 50 million in a matter of days. Signal and Telegram are known for offering full end-to-end encryption to keep personal conversations private. 

Any wonder why many WhatsApp subscribers may feel comfortable moving to the technology giant’s rivals rather than accept WhatsApp’s allegedly new restrictive conditions?