What options after WhatsApp shares personal data with Facebook

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must have read the news about WhatsApp starting to force all users to share their personal data with Facebook.

It was revealed that WhatsApp has rolled out a new privacy policy under its terms of use which include some concerning  changes, most notably requiring  users to agree to share their personal information with Facebook or lose access to their account.

The mandatory  changes are set to take effect on February 8, 2021 and if users don’t accept the new privacy policy before that, they will no longer be able to use the service.

Data Collected

Data collected includes but not limited to personal account information and device/account metadata such as battery level, signal strength, app version, browser information, mobile network, connection information (including phone number, mobile operator or ISP), language and time zone, IP address, device operations information, and identifiers (including identifiers unique to Facebook Products associated with the same device or account).

The collected data will now be used to show personalized ads under the new data-sharing policy. This is expected to make the app more of an ad-driven product by creating better ways to personalize ads. Ads might be annoying but privacy is what people fear most.

No Opt Out

You will no longer be able to opt out of sharing your private data with Facebook. The only way to continue using WhatsApp is to agree to the new terms of use. It means you won’t be able to bypass or skip the “I accept” after February 8.

So what are your options?

The move prompted calls for users to delete their WhatsApp accounts and switch to smaller encrypted messaging apps such as Signal and Telegram.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk was among those who recommended users switch services, tweeting, “Use Signal.”  Similar to WhatsApp, Signal is a cross-platform encrypted messaging service developed by the Signal Foundation and Signal Messenger LLC.

Here are some alternatives and options you have moving forward. The only reliable option if you don’t want Facebook collecting your data is to cut Facebook out of the equation and try to convince their friends and family to do so too.

  1. Signal is probably the first to come mind as it makes its focus on privacy abundantly clear.  Signal is also an independent nonprofit and indicates on the app store that it does not collect any data that is linked to users. No advertising, no “creepy” tracking and no fees.
  2. Telegram is one of the most popular alternatives to WhatsApp, even more popular than WhatsApp in some countries. It almost offers all features of WhatsApp plus extras like channels and public groups.
  3. Skype is  one of the oldest of messaging apps but fell out of fashion after acquired by Microsoft. Microsoft failed to keep it relevant for ordinary users. On mobile devices, it doesn’t run as smooth as other apps. It is slow, buggy, heavy, annoying. More importantly, it has deep integration with Microsoft. Likely, you don’t want to jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.
  4. Other apps with better privacy depending on what your friend use.
  5. Don’t accept WhatsApp’s new terms of use, stay out of WhatsApp and Facebook for a while and hope that many others also do so to pressure Facebook to backpedal. You can also ask Elon Musk to buy one of the cash-strapped messaging apps and make it a privacy-focused non-profit entity. He once wanted to create a Pravda newspaper.
  6. Make useless what WhatsApp shares with Facebook. Use a different phone number on Facebook and WhatApp. Multiple virtual identities etc in a way that the data collected is not for much use. It is important to note that WhatsApp will not share your message contents which will remain end to end encrypted . What it shares are metadata and account information.
  7. With a sigh, accept to share your data with Facebook.