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Fine print prompts huge exodus

Users of Facebook-owned encrypted messaging platform WhatsApp appear to be abandoning the platform in droves after learning it would soon share their information and data with the social media giant whether they want it to or not.Rival encrypted messaging app Signal has said many are jumping ship, a transition no doubt helped by a simple…

Users of Facebook-owned encrypted messaging platform WhatsApp appear to be abandoning the platform in droves after learning it would soon share their information and data with the social media giant whether they want it to or not.

Rival encrypted messaging app Signal has said many are jumping ship, a transition no doubt helped by a simple tweet from the world’s newly minted richest man.

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Signal reported that its verification codes were being delayed because so many people were trying to join, but the problem was resolved about an hour later.

Facebook is going to flick the switch on the proverbial vacuum that hoovers up data from its users next month.

If you don’t agree to the new rules you won’t be able to use the app past February 8.

End-to-end encryption was added to WhatsApp after Facebook acquired it in 2014 for $US19 billion ($A24.46 billion), making it attractive to privacy-minded users.

Less attractive is the data it collects and what it does with it.

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WhatsApp collects data including your phone number and the phone numbers of the people in your address book, profile names and pictures, and when you were last online.

The updated privacy policy boldly begins by saying that “respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA” – but when the company repeats the claim a few paragraphs down it doesn’t inspire much confidence.

“You provide us the phone numbers in your mobile address book on a regular basis, including those of both the users of our services and your other contacts,” WhatsApp tells its users, as well as adding, “You confirm you are authorised to provide us such numbers.”

By the way, this also means even if you don’t use WhatsApp, it and by extension Facebook can still get your phone number if a friend or relative of yours does.

“We receive information other people provide us, which may include information about you,” the policy reads.

Some of the other data collected “includes information about your activity (such as how you use our services, how you interact with others using our services, and the like)”.

The company maintains it doesn’t store messages on its servers after they’ve been delivered and using end-to-end encryption prevents them or anyone else from reading it.

Apple recently introduced new requirements for developers to disclose what data their apps collect.

Comparing three of them shows what people are concerned about. Here’s what the privacy reports for Signal and WhatsApp look like.

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WhatsApp collects much more information. But as is always the case, things could be worse. Take a look at Facebook’s own Messenger application for an example.

The new demands of WhatsApp will also allow it to share that data with other Facebook companies, and if you don’t like that, tough, you’ll have to find another messaging service.

The only option for people who don’t want Facebook collecting their data is to cut Facebook out of the equation and try to convince their friends and family to do so too.

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