Last week, nearly 2 billion people around the world used WhatsApp, an instant messaging service owned by Facebook, which was greeted with a giant pop-up when they launched the app.
Unless everyone agrees to these new terms, they’ll be locked out of WhatsApp on Feb. 8.
Online, the backlash was quick. “Use of Signals” tweeted Tesla CEO Elon Musk, with his 42 million followers, mentioned an open source WhatsApp alternative that is popular with people handling sensitive information like journalists and activists. “I use [Signal] every day and I’m still not dead, ” tweeted American Whistleblower Edward Snowden. In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communications office and the Ministry of Defense announced that they drop WhatsApp after the policy changed and opened a survey about the move.
Signal becomes the top free app on Google and Apple app stores in most countries around the world. More than 8,8,000 people downloaded Signal on iPhones and Android phones in the week of Jan. 4, compared with just 246,000 last week, according to data analytics firm Sensor Tower. Telegram, another WhatsApp alternative, to speak on Tuesday that more than 25 million people have participated in the past 72 hours.
“I worry about my privacy,” J. Paul, a marketing expert from Mumbai who just wants to be identified by his initials, told BuzzFeed News. “Facebook monetizes its products in harmful ways for users.”
Besides Facebook itself, WhatsApp is Facebook’s largest and most popular service. In markets like Brazil and India, the app is default way communicating for hundreds of millions of people. But so far, Facebook, the company that paid $ 22 billion to buy it back in 2014, remains largely independent and doesn’t try to monetize it. Now, that is changing.
“We remain committed to the privacy and security of everyone’s private messages,” a WhatsApp spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. path to a page the company posted earlier this week to explain the new policy. “The best way to maintain end-to-end encryption over the long term is to have a business model that protects everyone’s private communications.”
The page says that WhatsApp thinks that texting with businesses is different than texting with friends and family, while also splitting up data that the company might share with Facebook in the future.
Mishi Choudhary, a New York-based technology attorney and online civil libertarian activist, told BuzzFeed News: “If you spend $ 22 billion on something, sooner or later, neck. Dong also wants you to make money from that property.
WhatsApp, founded by two former Yahoo employees, Jan Koum and Brian Acton, initially charged people a dollar a year. After Facebook made the app available for free to use, the growth was explosive. For the first few years after buying the app in 2014, Facebook largely left WhatsApp alone. But in 2018, it launched WhatsApp Business, which allows businesses to use WhatsApp to communicate with customers. For the first time, Facebook wants WhatsApp to start generating revenue.
In the last year, WhatsApp added more features for businesses, such as airline tickets and shopping receipts, category, and pay. WhatsApp says there are more than 50 million businesses on the platform and more than 175 million people text a business on the app every day.
“I don’t trust Facebook,” Paul said. He recently deactivated his Facebook account, although he still uses Instagram and WhatsApp. “I have to be on it, but I don’t trust it,” he said.
Trust in WhatsApp has been eroded since Facebook bought it. Koum defended the sale of apps to Facebook in 2014 blog posts, saying that the company is not interested in people’s personal data. “If partnering with Facebook meant we had to change our values, we wouldn’t have done it,” he wrote. However, two years later, WhatsApp announced that it will start sharing some data, including phone numbers and last time people used the service with Facebook – a move that the European Union fined it’s 110 million euros.
In response, Facebook is launching a seduction attack. In India, the company’s largest market with more than 400 million users, the company launched the front pages of major national newspapers with full-page advertisements making it clear they couldn’t see private messages. people either listen to their calls. “Respect for your privacy is encrypted in our DNA,” the WhatsApp ad said, repeating a line from Koum’s 2014 blog post.
“It is important that we make it clear that this update describes business communication and does not change WhatsApp’s data sharing practices with Facebook,” he wrote. “It doesn’t affect how people communicate privately with friends or family no matter where in the world they are.”
Cathcart did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
Despite outrageous opposition, ditching WhatsApp in countries like India can be difficult. Paul, a marketing expert from Mumbai, said he will continue using the app until he urges everyone he knows to switch to Signal.
“It’s not an easy item to sell,” he said, “because of how convenient WhatsApp is.”