Saturday, July 22, 2017

The userbase of WhatsApp is not really a reflection of it's popularity

Every Tom Dick and Harry I meet, asks me if I'm on WhatsApp. And why? They either want to share an "interesting forward" or they've just created a group and want me to be part of it.

So there are:
  • School alumni groups
  • Pre-degree alumni groups
  • Engineering alumni groups
  • Engineering close friends group 
  • College students-teachers group
  • Office group
  • Office cab group
  • Office CSR volunteer group
  • Office party group
  • Science society group
  • Parents teachers group
  • Local civic champions group
  • Religious society group
  • Lions club group
  • Orphanage support group 
  • Blood donation group
And of course, there's all our friends, relatives and acquaintances who want to send us those "really interesting" forwards.

Phew! 
There goes your peace of mind. Ping ping ping ping throughout the day.

Even seasoned WhatsApp users I know, tell me the only reason they are still on WhatsApp is because someone in their group created a WhatsApp group and peer pressure forced the others to join in. It's the domino effect. It's not an indication of popularity.

Any self respecting messaging software should not be restricted to just a phone interface. Having a web interface hugely increases the userbase because there are so many of us who:
  • Don't want to pull out a phone every time, when answering on a PC is easier.
  • Don't want to be disturbed by constant pings on our phone when we can log out of the web interface and have our peace.
  • Don't want to use the tiny keyboard on the phone when we can type much faster on the computer keyboard.

Why WhatsApp is a privacy problem

Although their privacy policy says they have end to end encryption, you do have to note this:

"We collect service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (such as how you use our Services, how you interact with others using our Services, and the like)"

"We collect device-specific information when you install, access, or use our Services. This includes information such as hardware model, operating system information, browser information, IP address, mobile network information including phone number, and device identifiers. We collect device location information if you use our location features, such as when you choose to share your location with your contacts, view locations nearby or those others have shared with you, and the like"

"We collect information about your online and status message changes on our Services, such as whether you are online (your “online status”), when you last used our Services (your “last seen status”), and when you last updated your status message."

"We receive information other people provide us, which may include information about you. For example, when other users you know use our Services, they may provide your phone number from their mobile address book (just as you may provide theirs), or they may send you a message, send messages to groups to which you belong, or call you"

"We allow you to use our Services in connection with third-party services. If you use our Services with such third-party services, we may receive information about you from them"

"Your phone number, profile name and photo, online status and status message, last seen status, and receipts may be available to anyone who uses our Services..."


These don't really seem good from a privacy point of view. Ok agreed, that even other companies collect such information, but still, this information is much less sensitive when it is accessed from a computer than from a phone.

If you feel the government isn't monitoring and storing the so-called end to end encrypted WhatsApp messages, you ought to be naive.


Primary message: 
If you don't like WhatsApp, don't use it. Leave those fifty groups people have created, and get your peace of mind. There are so many other accounts you already have, which have both an app and a web interface. Use those.


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