WhatsApp update: Expert explains privacy policy changes for users

  • One-to-one chat to remain encrypted
  • Digital expert Usama Khilji warns that users’ information will be used for Facebook ads
  • WhatsApp and Facebook will be able to access group chats

WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy has left many users confused regarding the new  rules of the app.

Considering the ongoing confusion, Geo Pakistan spoke to digital rights expert Usama Khilji regarding the new WhatsApp policy.

Khilji, who is also a director at digital rights organisation Bolo Bhi, said that one-to-one conversations between users will “remain encrypted”.

However, he explained WhatsApp will now provide “some information” to its parent company Facebook.

Khilji said WhatsApp will now be able to share a user’s status, smartphone details, internet and the phone number and IP address being used by an account.

“They will use this information to target you through Facebook ads,” said the Bolo Bhi director.

What steps can one take to ensure privacy?

As a starter, Khilji urged the users to provide as less information as they can on the platform.

“Try that you do not put much on WhatsApp status and if you want to protect your identity do not put your picture on WhatsApp,” said the digital rights activist.

For users who wish to remain private, Khilji suggested they avoid putting their real names on the app and use a pseudonym. He believed that this way the messaging service will have the “least information” about the user.

“You should also know that WhatsApp and Facebook can see which group you are a member of and who else is a member,” said Khilji, adding that the companies will not be able to see the information in the chat.

The Bolo Bhi director warned that if a person is using a WhatsApp for Business account “then that information can also be shown to a third party apart from the business and the user”.

Seek strict privacy policy

The hosts also asked Khilji about the prospects of the government developing its platforms similar to WhatsApp.

To this, Khilji responded that whoever makes the platform at the end of the day “information will go to companies and governments”. He added that they will use that data for their benefit.

“Whichever company gets our data, they use it for themselves as much as they can, they sell it or use it for surveillance when it comes to the government,” said Khilji.

The digital rights activist said it does not matter who owns the company, but instead people should “push for a privacy policy that is strict”.