WhatsApp’s decision to start sharing user data with Facebook has rightly made waves around the world, mostly for the wrong reasons, but there are still positives we can take from the situation.
That said, of course, WhatsApp should never have forced this on their users, and opt-in would have been an immensely better decision. (If you want to opt out, see here for details regardless of whether you’ve accepted the new terms and conditions.)
Secondly, users and the media didn’t just take it lying down – there were multiple articles outlining why this was a mistake for WhatsApp and criticising both companies across not just tech outlets but respected mainstream media – so the days of people just shrugging when massive changes are made to privacy policies without consultation are over.
Thirdly – and arguably most importantly – those in charge of protecting and safeguarding our privacy are showing they have teeth (and plan to use them) with both the UK’s Information Commissioner and France’s CNIL saying they plan to look into the decision and would be following it ‘with great vigilance’. in addition to a complaint to the Federal Trades Commission from US privacy groups.
Fourth, and finally, there are (very early) signs that people aren’t as ready to be loyal to messaging platforms, even popular ones, with a wealth of online comment of WhatsApp users looking for other, more private, platforms, and mainstream articles such as this one in Mashable.
Obviously we all hope for less, rather than more, personal data sharing without our consent, and there’s rightly a lot of anger at this move. But a sea change is coming, where users will be the ones back in control of their data, sharing it on their terms, and the public visibility and understanding needed to help make that a reality is very much underway.