What’s up, WhatsApp?

By Sahar Moussa

WhatsApp has informed its more than 2 billion users that they must agree to share their data with Facebook in order to keep using the service – and if they do not agree by Feb 8 (later pushed back to May 15), users will no longer be able to use the app. This threat provoked many people, because they felt that their privacy is being invaded.

Digital technology has improved communication, revolutionized the information industry and changed our lives immensely in every aspect, where nowadays everything is at our fingertips. Yes, we are better connected to each other, we have instant access to knowledge, which can lead to better education, and we are being more entertained, but at what cost?

There is definitely a price to pay for that gain. In our digital world, we are constantly being monitored and watched by huge companies. Any app that has access to our emails such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Google, Instagram, etc is spying on us. According to Jeff Seibert, a former executive Serial Tech Entrepreneur at Twitter, “Everything people are doing online is being watched, tracked and measured. Every single action you take is carefully monitored”.

Therefore, does it really make any difference if we accept to share our data with Facebook or not? While we are naively sharing personal information for free with social media platforms, we are being dragged into a trap to gather our data for their own benefit. Data is like a goldmine for social media companies – because of it these tech giants companies are worth billions of dollars today.

Wait a minute – why should WhatsApp have the upper hand and have the right to take our data and share it? People have started questioning the honesty of WhatsApp and have flocked to rivals Telegram and Signal. After the backlash, WhatsApp delayed its data-sharing update. I think this is a victory for people who for long were hypnotized by these social media platforms and technology companies.

Where do we draw the line? I know that the EU did, when it fined Facebook $120 million for providing incorrect and misleading information about its 2014 takeover of WhatsApp and the ability to link accounts between the services, according to AFP. That is why a WhatsApp spokesperson confirmed that there will be no changes to WhatsApp’s data-sharing practices in Europe and the UK. Yes, they did draw the line.

Unfortunately, the new terms and conditions also mean that simply deleting the app will not prevent WhatsApp from retaining a user’s private data. To ensure the service no longer continues to do this, users must instead use the in-app feature for deleting their accounts. The policy notes that even after using this delete feature, some data will remain with the company.

I believe that technology companies are going too far in invading people’s privacy, but this time people somehow woke up to a reality that these technology companies and social media platforms are hacking our brains through targeted ads and subliminal messages that can influence our mindset. This leads us to question what their hidden agenda truly is.

Are we heading to a world where privacy is becoming something precious? Are we being manipulated and brainwashed because they have our data, as data equals information and information equals power? Do social media companies use algorithms that encourage addiction to their platforms? Do they already have the power to shape our reality? All I am saying is that it is time to wake up and protect our privacy. Don’t you think obliging us to give or share our data is a crime?