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No one is reading your WhatsApp chats, Pakistan representative clarifies

Chats will not be shared with anyone

SAMAA | and - Posted: Jan 13, 2021 | Last Updated: 3 months ago
Posted: Jan 13, 2021 | Last Updated: 3 months ago
No one is reading your WhatsApp chats, Pakistan representative clarifies

Photo: AFP

Your WhatsApp chats will not be accessible to anyone in the “WhatsApp headquarters” as some memes would have you believe, the Pakistan representative of Facebook has said.

Public Policy Manager Sehar Tariq appeared on Samaa TV show Naya Din Tuesday, and clarified some “inauthentic” news and speculations about the new privacy policy introduced by WhatsApp recently.

Under the new policy, WhatsApp will be sharing its user data with Facebook.

The messaging app has been collecting data on subscribers since its inception. Although Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014, it has always officially stated that the two companies exist independent of each other, particularly in terms of data.

Now, they will be officially sharing the data.

Tariq has said that every app or service has certain terms of use, to ensure the service can be provided in a proper way. She said that user accounts will not be deleted if a user does not accept terms and services. Their data and conversations will not go anywhere. But they won’t be able to use it to communicate with their contacts either until they accept the terms.

She was asked if there would be any changes to the way Facebook deals with government requests to share data of its citizens. Tariq said that Facebook works with governments globally, but provides them this data after a rigorous procedure. These details are published in the social media organisation’s transparency reports. WhatsApp conversations will not, and cannot be provided, because they are encrypted end to end, she said.

Related: Elon Musk, Twitter CEO endorse Signal after WhatsApp privacy changes

She was also asked why the language of the update is different for the European Union and the US. Tariq said that she is not an expert on public policy in those areas, but that if the terms of use are different, it is because of a technical or legal reason.

Bloomberg reported “that there’s a difference in the text for Europe compared with the rest of the world.” The US update says it wants to be able to let users start connecting their Facebook Pay account “to pay for things on WhatsApp,” and let them chat with friends on other Facebook products, such as Portal, “by connecting your WhatsApp account.” This text does not appear in the version applicable to Europe.

Digital rights activists, though, are not happy with the explanations.

Pakistani digital rights activist Nighat Dad has said that WhatsApp’s clarification on its new data-sharing policy isn’t convincing enough.

“WhatsApp became a successful application worldwide because of its ‘end-to-end encryptions’ and its data protection,” Dad said on SAMAA TV show 7se8 Tuesday.

“Since Facebook and WhatsApp merger we have seen the privacy policy being compromised and so is this new policy.”

Amid criticism of its new policy to share user data with Facebook, WhatsApp issued the following clarifications Tuesday:

  • WhatsApp cannot see your private messages or hear your calls and neither can Facebook
  • WhatsApp does not keep logs of who everyone is messaging or calling
  • WhatsApp does not share your contacts with Facebook
  • WhatsApp groups will remain private
  • WhatsApp cannot see your shared location and neither can Facebook.

“As per these policies, WhatsApp will share your data with Facebook and its third party in order to customise advertisements,” she said on the show.

The new data-sharing rules are a “breach of privacy” for the ones who do not have Facebook accounts but use WhatsApp, the activist explained.

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