WhatsApp Privacy Issue | UPSC

WhatsApp Privacy Issue | UPSC


How private is WhatsApp?

      WHY IN NEWS:

In a clarification on its privacy policy update, WhatsApp has made a distinction between private and business messages.

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : 3 : Privacy : Information and Communication


WhatsApp on Tuesday had to clarify yet again that the policy changes nothing for those messaging friends and family.


  • WhatsApp on Tuesday had to clarify yet again that the policy changes nothing for those messaging friends and family.

It also clarified that in some conditions, business messages — “different than messaging with your family or friends” — can be read by Facebook and could be used for marketing purposes.

  • The latest clarification brings in what seems like a differentiation between “messages with friends or family” and “messages with a business”.
  • It says the new privacy policy pertains to the latter alone and the former remains unchanged.


Personal messages are protected by end-to-end encryption and will continue to be so.

  • WhatsApp does not keep logs of who anyone is messaging or calling, because it considers a data dump of this kind a “privacy and security risk”.
  • WhatsApp cannot see a location you have shared with a friend as that too is protected by end-to-end encryption.
  • WhatsApp does not share a user’s contacts with Facebook, or any other app.

No data from groups will be shared with Facebook for ad purposes and all the communication within is end-to-end encrypted.

  • So, if you are a member of an office, RWA or school group, there is nothing to worry as nothing changes for you.

WhatsApp Privacy Issue | UPSC

 What you get on WhatsAPP, other apps | WhatsApp Privacy Issue | UPSC


  • The interplay between WhatsApp and Facebook, its parent company, becomes more visible when it comes to messages to business, where the new privacy changes have been applied.

WhatsApp has clarified that some “large businesses” might need to use “secure hosting services from Facebook.

  • This will be for managing WhatsApp chats with their customers, answer questions, and send helpful information like purchase receipts.
  • And “whether you communicate with a business by phone, email, or WhatsApp, it can see what you’re saying and may use that information for its own marketing purposes.
  • This may be included while advertising on Facebook.
  • But, WhatsApp says it will “clearly label conversations with businesses that are choosing to use hosting services from Facebook”.
  • These labels are already visible when you are communicating with a business, and users will now need to decide whether they want to be in a conversation, the details of which could be used to show them targeted ads.
  • Using the Shops features on WhatsApp could also open up your preferences for targeted ads on other Facebook products such as Instagram.
  • WhatsApp has been gradually activating across many markets, will ultimately results in advertisements based on preferences you have shown to the business.

If you use WhatsApp for a business and have a list of clients, the business on the other side too will see the conversation and know your preferences.

  • This could be used to show you ads on Facebook platforms.
  • If you are the business owner, you could use some of the insights to run ads targeting your customers on Facebook and other services.


  • IF YOU ARE ON FACEBOOK : Nothing changes when it comes to personal chats.
  • IF YOU ARE NOT : Nothing changes for you as a WhatsApp user, as you cannot be shown ads on Facebook.
  • IF YOU HAVE A LARGE FOLLOWING : WhatsApp remains a secure platform for all your personal conversations with individuals and groups.

However, it might be a good idea to be cautious while using the business features as many people could have access to your preferences.

  • OR IF YOU DO NOT : Your regular WhatsApp conversations remain safe and end-to-end encrypted.


  • While there is data sharing with Facebook even in the European Union, users there get more control.
  • That’s because the EU has a different privacy policy on any software product compared to the rest of the world.

EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is one of the strictest in the world and ensures that consumers have the full rights on their data and how that data is processed, and can even demand erasure of information.

  • According to WhatsApp’s own policy for EU, consumers have “the right to access, rectify, port, and erase your information, as well as the right to restrict and object to certain processing of your information.”
  • While the WhatsApp privacy policy in the EU also talks about data sharing with Facebook, consumers there get a special setting called “Managing and Retaining Your Information”.
  • This option is not available elsewhere.


  • Consumers in the EU can even withdraw their consent to WhatsApp for processing of data, thanks to GDPR.

Interestingly, after the EU antitrust authorities in 2017 fined Facebook 110 million euros for misleading regulators during a 2014 review of the WhatsApp takeover.

  • The social network had told these regulators it technically wasn’t possible to combine WhatsApp data with its other services.


  • India lacks a regulatory authority.

Until the Personal Data Protection Bill becomes law, it will be hard to police tech companies on how user data should be processed.

  • WhatsApp’s new privacy policy applies to every country, including the US, and users will have to accept the terms and conditions to continue using the service.
  • The regulatory heat makes the timing of this update interesting.
  • In the US, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a lawsuit against Facebook over antitrust, anti-competitive policies.
  • It has also put Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram under the scanner.
  • These two apps have helped Facebook dominate the social media and messaging space in the last five years.
  • If the FTC wins its cases, it wants Facebook to sell off both WhatsApp and Instagram, which could prove disastrous for the company.

      IASbhai WINDUP: 

91% users said they would not use WhatsApp’s payment feature and 67% users said they would not chat with businesses if payment and transaction information was shared with Facebook and third parties.


  • There is no need to move out of WhatsApp if you use it primarily to communicate with friends and family.
  • Signal is topping the charts on Apple’s App Store and it appears to be driven by downloads from India.
  • Signal too offers end-to-end encryption (E2E), similar to WhatsApp, but it is run by a non-profit co-founded by WhatsApp founder Brian Acton.
  • Signal’s E2E protocol is actually used by WhatsApp.
  • It has a number of features that WhatsApp offers, but some such as group video calling are still in the beta stage.

It also lacks some of the convenience WhatsApp offers such as the ability to back up all your chats to a third-party service such as Google Drive or iCloud, or the ability to connect to business accounts.

  • Another encrypted messaging app is Telegram, created by Russian brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov, with features similar to WhatsApp.
     SOURCES:  IE   | WhatsApp Privacy Issue | UPSC



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