Tuesday, January 12, 2021

WhatsApp Privacy Policy and Encryption Canary

Dan Goodin (Hacker News, Bruce Schneier):

WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messenger that claims to have privacy coded into its DNA, is giving its 2 billion plus users an ultimatum: agree to share their personal data with the social network or delete their accounts.

The requirement is being delivered through an in-app alert directing users to agree to sweeping changes in the WhatsApp terms of service. Those who don’t accept the revamped privacy policy by February 8 will no longer be able to use the app.

Tim Hardwick:

Encrypted messaging app Signal faced big delays in verifying the phone numbers of new accounts on Thursday because of a sudden surge in people trying to join the platform.

Alec Muffett (via Hacker News):

Why have @WhatsApp changed their E2E white paper regarding “at no time…access to private keys”? Answer: Because Facebook plan to offer Bots in the Cloud for WhatsApp “Business” Users

Hartley Charlton:

WhatsApp is now assuring users that “Our privacy policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family.” It has also added to its FAQ to address users’ privacy concerns relating to data sharing with Facebook.

The FAQ explains that WhatsApp and Facebook cannot see a user’s private messages or hear their calls. Logs of who users are messaging and calling are not retained and shared location, contact information, and group membership is kept private.

WhatsApp suggests that the majority of data sharing with Facebook is derived from communicating with businesses that use hosting services from Facebook or after using Facebook-branded commerce services such as Shops. Either may result in targeted ads being shown to users.


Update (2021-01-15): Reuters (via Mike Isaac, Hacker News):

The WhatsApp messaging service announced on Friday that it would delay changes to new business features after people around the world criticized the new policy.

The Facebook-owned company said it is “going to do a lot more to clear up misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp.”

Update (2021-02-22): Tim Hardwick:

WhatsApp has revealed how it will gradually cripple accounts held by users who do not accept the platform’s impending privacy policy changes, due to come into effect on May 15.

Update (2021-05-24): Prasham Parikh (via Hacker News):

WhatsApp has confirmed that while it won’t terminate accounts immediately, users who don’t accept the new terms will have only “limited account functionality” available to them until they do. In the short term, that means losing access to your chat list, but you will still be able to see and respond to notifications as well as answer voice and video calls. However, after a few weeks of that, WhatsApp will then switch off all incoming notifications and calls for your account, effectively rendering it useless.

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