People are connected even when they are thousands of miles away from each other. Through messaging apps, instantaneous communication is in people's hands.
The leader of all messaging app, is WhatsApp. Owned by Facebook, it's a versatile, reliable and powerful tool for communication. It's relatively clutter-free and very easy to use. But it's Facebook's, and the social giant is already having tainted privacy issues tied to its brand.
While WhatsApp has shared some user data to Facebook, the messaging app is taking it a step further. Facebook wants more data from WhatsApp, and this angers users. This triggered a massive exodus in which WhatsApp users are migrating to alternatives.
And two of the most popular alternatives here, are Signal and Telegram, two privacy-focused messaging apps that aren't owned by any tech giant.
Competitor Signal for example, tweeted that the surge of new users has temporarily made some delays in its ability in sending verification codes.
Telegram also said that it is seeing records number of new registration.
The messaging giant said that the update has nothing to do with users' chats or profile data, and instead the change is only designed to outline how businesses who use WhatsApp for customer service may store logs of its chats on Facebook servers.
"We want to address some rumors and be 100% clear we continue to protect your private messages with end-to-end encryption," WhatsApp said, explaining that:
- It cannot see users' private messages or hear users' calls, and neither can Facebook.
- It doesn't keep logs of who everyone is messaging or calling.
- It cannot see users' shared location and neither can Facebook.
- It doesn't share users' contacts with Facebook.
- Groups remain private.
- Users can set their messages to disappear.
- Users can download their data.
We want to address some rumors and be 100% clear we continue to protect your private messages with end-to-end encryption. pic.twitter.com/6qDnzQ98MP
— WhatsApp (@WhatsApp) January 12, 2021
Head of WhatsApp Will Cathcart also tried to clarify this in a tweet.
“With end-to-end encryption, we cannot see your private chats or calls and neither can Facebook. We’re committed to this technology and committed to defending it globally,” Cathcart wrote.
“It’s important for us to be clear this update describes business communication and does not change WhatsApp’s data sharing practices with Facebook. It does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family wherever they are in the world.”
Even Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri tweeted trying to break the confusion.
But the wave of misinformation, malinformation and disinformation that spread throughout the internet, helped by Facebook's abysmal track record on preserving privacy; its reputation for obfuscating changes to the terms in its service agreements and its increasingly complex terms that no non-lawyer user can reasonably comprehend, has resulted in a full-blown WhatsApp backlash.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has even shared his opinion, tweeting to his followers to “Use Signal”.
As the controversy grew, Signal has become one of the most downloaded apps on Android and iOS. Telegram, on the other hand, saw more than 25 million new users sign up in just 72 hours.
But it should be noted here, that again, WhatsApp has already shared some user information to Facebook. The irony here is that, people are trying to prevent something that is already likely happening for most people who use WhatsApp.
WhatsApp does allow users to opt out of data sharing with Facebook, but that happened only for a brief amount of time.