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Why Deleting Whatsapp Is Probably Pointless

Recently, I’ve seen a flurry of activity on my Telegram, as people rush to abandon Whatsapp after it updated its privacy policy. But does deleting Whatsapp actually make any difference to your online privacy? Probably not much, and here’s why.

Recently, the globally popular messaging app asked its users to accept a new privacy policy, or risk being unable to use the app. The updated policy will allow the app to share more data with its parent company, Facebook, and roll out advertising and e-commerce. According to ENCA, “Facebook aims to monetise WhatsApp by allowing businesses to contact their clients via the platform, even sell them products directly using the service as they already do in India”.

The new privacy agreement, however, has been largely misunderstood. According to Zak Doffman at Forbes, “this isn’t about WhatsApp sharing any more of your general data with Facebook than it does already, this is about using your data and your engagement with its platform to enable shopping and other business services, to provide a platform where businesses can communicate with you and sell to you, all for a price they will pay to WhatsApp”.

It makes sense that people would feel startled by the popup that Whatsapp shoved in their faces to inform them of the upcoming changes, but it seems to me that the response – to flee from the service and adopt alternatives – has been somewhat narrow-minded and unreasonable in a lot of cases. Of course, if you value the privacy of your data you should stop using Whatsapp, but then you’ll also need to quit using a whole host of other applications and I don’t see many people doing that.

What else needs to go?

Most of your social media

Naturally, if you’re going to stop using Whatsapp on account of privacy reasons, you’ll need to get rid of all its affiliates – that means your Facebook and Instagram account, and of course Facebook Messenger. The latter is especially insidious, as unlike Whatsapp, the service doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption, which is fundamental to the privacy of your messages. If you’re worried about Whatsapp having access to your location, your contact list, and a whole bunch of other information about your life, you can be sure that the other Facebook-owned platforms are also harvesting your information and building comprehensive profiles to sell to advertisers too.

While you’re at it, you may as well also delete TikTok, because although its not owned by Facebook (yet), the app does collect oodles of user data. Courtney Linder at Popular Mechanic writes that “while it may not be malicious, users should at least be wary, and ask themselves if a social media app needs to have access to information like your hardware IDs, memory usage, the apps installed on your phone, your IP address, or your most recently used WiFi access points”.

Google Maps

Arguably the creepiest app on your phone, Google Maps should be deleted if you’re serious about your privacy. It not only know where you are at all times, but it passes that information along to advertisers too.

According to Sebastian Meineck at Vice, “the fact that Google Maps has the power to follow your every step doesn’t automatically mean it’s misusing that power. But they could, which is an issue in and of itself, especially since Google’s headquarters are in the US, where privacy legislation is looser than in Europe and intelligence agencies have a history of surveilling private citizens”.

Every single place you search in Google Maps, whether that’s your grandmother’s apartment building, a strip club, or your gynaecologist, is saved into Google’s search engine algorithm – telling them who’s looking for what, where and when. “Google knows you probably find this creepy,” writes Meineck, “that’s why the company uses so-called “dark patterns” – user interfaces crafted to coax us into choosing options we might not otherwise, for example by highlighting an option with certain fonts or brighter colours”.

Not only this, but Google can share that information with government agencies, so if you’re deleting Whatsapp in order to fly under the radar (which seems mighty suspicious), you’ll have to delete this one too for sure.

While you’re at it, stop using Google altogether

Most people don’t every look at the information they’re allowing Google to collect about them – and it’s a lot. So if you’ve chosen to delete Whatsapp, you’ll either have to quit Google too, or go in and make some serious changes to how you use it.

Here are a few steps you can take in order to make your Google searches a little more secure:

Some more alternatives to Google include ethical search engine Ecosia, which claims that they will “not be taking part in Google’s revenue-making auction. We are calling on Google to cease damaging, monopolistic behaviour. Android users deserve the option to freely choose their search engine, and that choice should not be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Google has chosen to give discrimination a different form and make everyone else but themselves pay, which isn’t something we can accept.”

You could also try DuckDuckGo – anonther alternative search engine with none of the privacy problems associated with Google. They don’t store your IP address, and your user information isn’t logged – which means search results aren’t skewed by your search history, and your previous browsing data is kept private.

Even with these changes, though, you need to keep in mind that any app that’s free is taking your data and selling it to advertisers. Nothing in this world comes without a price, so if you’re not paying for your software, you should delete it along with your Whatsapp, or there’s very little point in deleting your Whatsapp at all.

In fact, Doffman argues that there’s very little reason to delete Whatsapp at all. “Nothing has really changed,” he writes. “WhatsApp’s data sharing hasn’t really changed, its security hasn’t changed, it remains the largest end-to-end encrypted platform available, and one that’s likely be used by all those you communicate with. WhatsApp is materially better than SMS and Facebook Messenger, its mainstream alternatives. It is secure cross-platform unlike iMessage, and it’s end-to-end encrypted by default, unlike Telegram“. 

If you’re one of the few that are deleting Whatsapp with real intentions to live a more private life, I commend you. However, it seems to me that most of the names popping up on my Telegram may just be jumping on a poorly thought out bandwagon that isn’t going to get them very far.

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