Leave WhatsApp for good and embrace Signal2021-01-25
Facebook recently revealed their intention to be even more intrusive by making WhatsApp able to grab our list of contacts, financial transactions and far more. Individuals, companies, public bodies and even nations are ditching WhatsApp for good. Understand why you should ditch WhatsApp too, for good, right here right now.
Why the European Union recommended ditching WhatsApp? Why several countries blocked WhatsApp? Why millions of companies and individuals around the globe are ditching WhatsApp? Why influencers are pushing for ditching WhatsApp? Why nerds are so concerned?
The answer is more or less simple: Facebook is willing to be even more intrusive in our lives, being able to collect information from our mobile phones which they should never be allowed to collect in the first place. Among several types of data Facebook is going to collect we highlight:
- Your list of contacts;
- Your financial habits;
- Your location;
- Your IP address;
- Potentially far more.
Not everyone understands how harmful this can be. So we will visit every item in detail in the next section.
Your privacy (and mine!) is at risk
List of Contacts: When I gave you my contact details, my intention was that you should be able contact me. It was not my intention that Facebook and millions of companies using Facebook services should be able contact me. So, even though you may think that it's harmless for you if Facebook grabs your lists of contacts, it may be harmful to me and for dozens or even thousands of people in your list of contacts. When you are allowing Facebook to grab your data, you are sharing my contact details to Facebook, and I've never authorized you to share my contact details with Facebook and potentially millions of advertisers. Please to not help Facebook to transform my mobile phone into a dumpster of junk mail and unsolicited advertisements which I'm not interested at all.
Financial habits: Facebook is interested to know about how you spend money, so that when you buy product A, you may be eventually interested on products B, C, D, E, F, G, H, ... dozens, etc. Consider this: Why would you be interested to share your financial status, your financial habits, your purchase habits and preferences with millions of advertisers worldwide? A lot can be inferred about you if I know only your name, your age and your home address; far more can be inferred about you to far higher level of accuracy if I track your financial transactions, your purchase habits and preferences.
Your location: Added to the ability to track your financial habits, the ability to track your location means that Facebook and virtually millions of advertisers have the ability to know where and when you expend your money. You may not reveal such kind of information to your partner... but you will reveal to Facebook and millions of advertisers.
Your IP address: the ability to track your IP address includes the ability to track names of access points, and indirectly: link you to private companies and government bodies. The very fact of connecting your mobile phone to a WiFi network of a certain company or government body you are visiting, immediately reveals that you had a certain interaction with such company or government body. If you visited a certain shop, client or supplier and performed a financial transaction whilst connected to a WiFi access point of that company, then Facebook and millions of advertisers will be able to know about that. This may be undesirable or even problematic in many circumstances.
Potentially more: This article may seen at first glance to be an exercise of paranoia or a pearl of conspiracy theories. In reality, scenarios pointed out here are only the tip of the iceberg, since the problem if far more serious and the consequences far more involving. Why? Because WhatsApp is closed source and can be far more harmful than we can imagine.
WhatsApp is closed source. And this is pretty bad!
Nobody really knows how WhatsApp works and which kind of data it collects from your mobile phone. The source code is closed, which means that we are not able to see the code and understand what is done, how it is done and when it is done. So, when Facebook says that it will be starting to collect more data from your mobile phone, we don't really know which sort of data it is already collecting right here right now; we only have their word that they are not going to be naughty, but we don't really know for sure. Playing a little bit of conspiracy theory here, but technically perfectly possible and feasible, WhatsApp can be accessing geolocation and date/time from your pictures, since WhatsApp has access to your media files already and, in this way, tracking your travel habits. WhatsApp can be even running some sort of AI so that it can obtain far more information from your pictures; it already does that with pictures you upload onto Facebook's website, right? So, why can't it be done with pictures stored in your mobile phone when WhatsApp already has permissions for accessing your media files? Conspiracy theory? Maybe. However, technically possible and perfectly feasible.
Why everyone should be using Signal instead of WhatsApp?
There's a good article on Wired Magazine which explains exactly that. However, there's more to add. And this is crucial:
Even if Facebooks backs off due to bad repercussion of their decisions, you can be sure they will do the same again in future, if not worse. Why? Because they can.
They have billions of regular users in WhatsApp groups around the globe, who feel the inconvenience and disruptive burden of moving to another platform. People may simply consider trading their privacy by something "easier" (like doing nothing!), since the burden of moving to another platform may seen to be "too much work".
Many people don't realize how intrusive WhatsApp already is or may become in future; or may not realize how they expose their contacts in their list of contacts to serious privacy concerns.
Many people don't understand that the more they use WhatsApp, the more they depend on WhatsApp and the more they become hostage of Facebook and whatever decisions they may take in future.
Can't Signal become evil just like WhatsApp is?
Short answer: no.
Long answer: Signal is fully open source, meaning that you can grab the source code and spin up your own Signal server and build your own Signal-like network if you wish and you are technically capable to do so. In other words: if Signal looks intrusive, you can spin off your own variant of Signal.
Besides, the company behind of Signal is a non-profit body which is backed by public donations which means that Signal depends on you and me to survive and guarantee your and my privacy, instead of being interested on selling our data to third parties.
For these reasons presented above, the right thing to do is ditching WhatsApp for good and moving from WhatsApp to Signal right here right now.
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