WhatsApp's New Privacy Policy: Should You Accept It?

You'll have to choose between convenience and privacy.

WhatsApp's New Privacy Policy: Should You Accept It?

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WhatsApp's new privacy policy kicks in on May 15

  • WhatsApp had announced May 15 as a deadline to accept new update
  • If you don’t accept it, your account will not be deleted
  • You won’t be able to make calls or access your chat list

WhatsApp's most controversial privacy update deadline is here, and you will either have to accept it or risk losing all the key WhatsApp features, as the company will stop you from calling or messaging contacts. The company had earlier given an ultimatum that to use the app, you will have to accept the new policy on May 15, but now, WhatsApp has stated that if you do not accept the privacy policy on May 15, no accounts will be deleted. The Facebook-owned instant messaging platform also told Delhi High Court on Friday that it is not forcing any user to accept the 2021 update in its privacy policy as it is not mandatory. It said that users will have a choice whether to accept the 2021 update, or they can choose not to do so, and are free to delete their WhatsApp accounts at any time.However, you won't be able to access your chat lists or make calls on the platform.

So, what is this privacy update, and should you accept it? We sat down with Mishi Choudhary, Technology Lawyer and Founder of SFLC, New York to understand everything in detail.

What happens if you do not accept WhatsApp's new policy?

You will be repetitively reminded to accept the new policy whenever you will open the app, and if you still choose to not accept it, then eventually, WhatsApp will become more or less useless to you.

  1. Initially, you will be able to answer incoming voice and video calls.
  2. If you have notifications enabled, you can also tap on them to read or reply to a message.
  3. You can call back a missed audio or video call.
  4. After a few weeks, you will stop getting WhatsApp calls, messages and even notifications.

Those who accept the new policy won't notice any difference in their experience. But, if you keep WhatsApp installed on your phone, and still refuse to accept the policy, then WhatsApp won't immediately delete your account because of that. It will probably delete your account due to “inactivity” if you don't connect for 120 days.

Why is WhatsApp's new privacy update a big deal?

When Facebook acquired WhatsApp back in 2014, the messaging platform released a new privacy policy a few years later in 2016 that said from now on it will connect your phone number with Facebook's systems, so that Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads.

This means, WhatsApp had already been sharing some of the information with its parent company Facebook, and now with its latest 2021 privacy policy, it wants to share even more data with Facebook that will include WhatsApp payment and transaction data. Though the company has made it clear that the users' chats are safe, and their calls remain end-to-end encrypted, their contacts are not shared with Facebook and neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can read the messages, the unnecessary need to collect excessive data in the name of showing relevant ads has raised suspicion among its users. 

“WhatsApp is not proposing to begin sharing the information of its users with Facebook. It is not proposing that. Why? Because it has been doing that all along. Once in 2016, for a limited time, everybody had a chance to opt-out. If I was there, and if I also had a Facebook account in 2016 for a limited time, I was given an option that Mishi can opt-out and say I don't want whatever on WhatsApp to be shared on Facebook,” noted Mishi.

“If I was not using WhatsApp back in 2016, and I signed up later or I just did not or I forgot because it was available for a very limited short period of time, I didn't do it. Now, I can't do anything. Now, WhatsApp will keep ratting me out to Facebook,” she added further.

WhatsApp is caught up in several court cases - because of this new privacy update. It recently defended itself saying that other tech companies and apps like Zomato, Ola, BigBasket, Truecaller, Aarogya Setu, Zoom have similar policies and collect even more data.

Mishi explained a notice was issued in which the supreme court had sought responses and said how are you protecting user's privacy and what does this new policy do? In the meantime, what has also happened is the Competition Commission of India started investigating this new privacy policy. So, the Competition Commission of India wants to study that there is going to be so much data collection - excessive data collection and that data collection will be used and shared between the various entities that Facebook uses. And, that also means that because they are a dominant player in the market, so how does it impact other competitors? What will it do to other people's privacy?

Most of the apps have long been collecting your data. All of this information is mostly hidden behind the long terms and conditions, which many of us don't care to read and blindly accept. WhatsApp and Facebook are one of them, but they want to collect your data excessively. So, maybe it's time for you to think about whether you want to choose convenience over privacy.

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