Positives to take from WhatsApp sharing personal data with Facebook

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.

Firstly, WhatsApp was upfront about what it was planning to do, (handing over personal information including users’ phone numbers to Facebook as part of plans to allow businesses to message users, which will also allow Facebook to better target ads). Now, they may well have thought they couldn’t hide it even if they wanted to, as it required a change to their privacy policy, but still – openness about what companies are doing with personal data is always to be commended, and will become a legal requirement for companies operating in the EU from 2018 when the GDPR comes in.

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s