What user data Whatsapp collects, what it shares with Facebook and privacy comparison between Whatsapp, Signal and Telegram
In recent days there has been a lot of talk about privacy on Whatsapp with an escalation of facts and, above all, opinions that seem to have gotten out of hand. In particular, first Whatsapp released an update of its user data processing policy which triggered panic because it revealed the link between Facebook and Whatsapp, then even the richest man in the world thought about it, saying to abandon Whatsapp and switch to Signal which is more respectful of privacy.
Trying to remove conspiracy theses, rumors and wrong assumptions, from an independent blogger and without any personal or economic interest in the use of an application or another, then I want to make the point of the situation clear, to give a photograph of the current status regarding the privacy of Whatsapp , the personal data that Whatsapp collects, can see and use , the relations between Whatsapp and Facebook , the comparison between Whatsapp and other similar apps such as Signal or Telegram .
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What changes in the data processing of Whatsapp
The information lists the data that Whatsapp collects and needs for its operation and it is, first of all, important to note that chats, conversations with friends, are not and cannot be read by those who manage Whatsapp and, of course, not even from Facebook. Messages on Whatsapp are end-to-end encrypted, therefore they can only be read by those who send them and those who receive them and no one else in the middle (therefore even those who manage the Whatsapp servers) can decode and read them. The data that Whatsapp automatically collects about users, and this has been doing it for years now, are above all those of the location, that is, Whatsapp always knows where we are and the phone book of the phone, which is used as a Whatsapp address book. In addition, there are also reports of violations and interactions with commercial activities.
The most interesting part of the Whatsapp privacy update is the final one, where the relationship with Facebook is explained. Since many have worried that Whatsapp data could be taken and crossed with the social network Facebook, it is important to clarify that in European countries, including Italy, at present, there is no sharing of Whatsapp data with Facebook . This is true today and will be true tomorrow as well, unless Facebook gets permission from the European authority.
The latest update serves to clarify the position of Whatsapp within Facebook as required by the European GDPR regulation. It is then explained how companies can use WhatsApp Business to connect with customers and communicate with users using a service provided by Facebook. Basically, if you use Whatsapp to chat with friends and family, nothing changes.
However, it is true that users have until February 8, 2021 to accept the new changes and will not be able to use the application without doing so.
It should also be noted that WhatsApp has just put in writing what it has been sharing with Facebook since 2016 . In 2016, in fact, a notification similar to that of 2021 appeared on Whatsapp, with the only difference that it was possible to refuse the integration with Facebook and that Whatsapp still guaranteed the service for 5 years. After 5 years, in 2021, integration with Facebook has become mandatory. Those who had already accepted the notification 5 years earlier, in 2016, had already accepted the privacy terms of Whatsapp as part of Facebook.
All personal data that are shared with Whatsapp and, in part, also with Facebook, can be easily discovered as explained in the Whatsapp privacy control guide , usage data and shared account info .
What data does the Whatsapp app collect and request on the smartphone?
Once it is clear that Whatsapp does not share user data with Facebook, it may be interesting to understand which data it collects specifically. Today there are many tables online about it, which are above all on the merciless comparison, in terms of respect for the privacy of users, between Whatsapp and Signal. Whatsapp collects a lot of data on users , Signal none.
Whatsapp stores and collects the following data: Profile picture, status, location and phone number. However, these data are not shared or crossed with Facebook.
We repeat again, however, that Whatsapp at no time can read end-to-end encrypted sent and received messages and neither can Facebook. To clarify this aspect, the head of Whatsapp also intervened with a long tweet and also the Whatsapp Twitter account published a very clear example table which is also explained in a FAQ page . At this point we can believe what we want, even that the leaders of Whatsapp are lying publicly, and that it is a sensational scam, but there is no evidence to support this hypothesis.
Instead, the relationship with the companies on Facebook has changed and they will have the ability to set up WhatsApp chats with customers to ask to respond to surveys or to send receipts or even to view their store products for sale directly on WhatsApp. If you then send a message to a company listed on Facebook via WhatsApp, our data (mainly the phone number) could be shared with Facebook to personalize advertisements.
Privacy comparison between Whatsapp, Telegram and Signal
Having clarified that we have nothing to fear from the change in the processing of personal data, it certainly cannot be denied that Whatsapp is a very intrusive app. This can be imagined since it is part of Facebook, undoubtedly the worst company in the world in terms of privacy.
- The data collected by WhatsAppare: Device ID , Usage data (for advertising), Purchases , Location , Contact information , User content , Identifiers , Diagnostics , Other minor content .
- The data collected by Telegramis Contact Information , Contacts , Identifier (User ID) , the only downside to Telegram is that it enables end-to-end encryption only in secret chats.
- Signal does not collect any datafrom its users.
If, therefore, you were not happy, the alternatives to Whatsapp for texting are not lacking and while Telegram is even better than Whatsapp in terms of functionality, Signal, with secret and untraceable chats , is the number one if you want to keep conversations private and as confidential as possible.
However, choosing between WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal is not at all simple, not because the alternatives are inferior or more complicated, but because of an established habit that is difficult to beat today. Even if you want the best app (Telegram) or the app that offers more protection of personal data (Signal), you will then have to convince friends and relatives to give up Whatsapp and the company will be even more difficult with older people who know use only WhatsApp.