Facebook & WhatsApp: What about our private data!?

By WhatsappHack on Thursday 20 February 2014 01:43 - Comments (19)
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Ok so: we won't get any advertisements in WhatsApp. Not even after Facebook acquired it. Praise whatever lord you worship, if any, for that!
Kudos to Jan Koum and Brian Acton to, even in the face of billions of dollars, keep their backs firmly straightened and ensure this will never happen.
It would be the sudden death of WhatsApp and a major inconvenience to its users.

But if you think about Facebook, many people think "Privacy violation!". (And many people just shrug and say "but I will use it anyway!")
WhatsApp has always been VERY careful with personal details, which has been confirmed by a joint investigation from Canadian and Dutch privacy watchdogs. (Source: https://www.priv.gc.ca/media/nr-c/2013/nr-c_130128_e.asp)

But... How is that going to be now that Facebook acquired it. Facebook, that is known for large scale privacy violations. (To which you consent...)

The first argument/fear I have heard was "Yeah but... Facebook will now read all the messages you ever sent and build a profile!!"
Well... Let me tell you: that's not possible. And even it it WOULD be possible, it would be very very illegal.
At this time, if you use WhatsApp, you have an agremeent with WhatsApp that is subject to the Terms of Service and the Privacy Policy respectively.
Those agreements, which are binding, state:
You provide certain Personally Identifiable Information, such as your mobile phone number, push notification name (if applicable), billing information (if applicable) and mobile device information to WhatsApp when choosing to participate in various uses of the WhatsApp Service, such as registering as a user, updating your status or requesting status for your contacts. In order to provide the WhatsApp Service, WhatsApp will periodically access your address book or contact list on your mobile phone to locate the mobile phone numbers of other WhatsApp users (“in-network” numbers), or otherwise categorize other mobile phone numbers as “out-network” numbers, which are stored as one-way irreversibly hashed values.
WhatsApp does not collect names, emails, addresses or other contact information from its users’ mobile address book or contact lists other than mobile phone numbers—the WhatsApp mobile application will associate whatever name the WhatsApp user has assigned to the mobile telephone number in his/her mobile address book or contact list — and this occurs dynamically on the mobile device itself and not on WhatsApp’s servers and is not transmitted to WhatsApp. This means that if you have your friend’s mobile phone number associated with the name “Shakespeare” in your mobile address book, that’s the name that will appear for that mobile phone number in your WhatsApp contact list. We do not collect location data, but users may voluntarily share their location with other users via the WhatsApp Service.
The contents of messages that have been delivered by the WhatsApp Service are not copied, kept or archived by WhatsApp in the normal course of business. The WhatsApp Service is meant to be a SMS replacement, using data service through a user’s phone (either via cell network or wifi). Users type their messages, which are sent via data service to our servers, and routed to the intended recipient (who must also be a WhatsApp user), if that recipient is online. If the recipient is not online, the undelivered message is held in WhatsApp’s server until it can be delivered. If the message is undelivered for thirty (30) days, the undelivered message is deleted from our servers. Once a message has been delivered, it no longer resides on our servers. The contents of any delivered messages are not kept or retained by WhatsApp — the only records of the content of any delivered messages reside directly on the sender’s and recipient’s mobile devices (and which may be deleted at the user’s option). Notwithstanding the above, WhatsApp may retain date and time stamp information associated with successfully delivered messages and the mobile phone numbers involved in the messages, as well as any other information which WhatsApp is legally compelled to collect. Files that are sent through the WhatsApp Service will reside on our servers after delivery for a short period of time, but are deleted and stripped of any identifiable information within a short period of time in accordance with our general retention policies.
So whilst Facebook *COULD*, with a minor modification to WhatsApp and the ToS, link your WhatsApp user profile to a Facebook profile and start mining those personal details: they can never read your chat history.
The terms specifically state that this behavior is not conducted and on top of that: WhatsApp guarantees that your messages are NOT stored on the WhatsApp servers. (this would also cost copious amounts of storage, whilst WhatsApp is designed to operate as cheaply as possible ;) With one server being able to serve millions of users and no data retention is taking place.)

Rest assured, even in the face of Facebook acquiring WhatsApp: your current message history can NOT be read by Facebook.
Whilst the ToS remains unchanged: this will not be possible at any time. If they do change the ToS... You will find out soon enough, but the changes will only apply to NEW messages being sent: it's impossible that it will apply to old messages, and those are not stored on the WhatsApp servers anyway.

Long story short: your data is safe!!
The only things that can change this are:
1.) WhatsApp changing the ToS and Privacy Policy
2.) Soon it will most likely be possible to link your WhatsApp to your facebook account: once you do that, Facebook WILL obtain access to your account and WILL be able to read your messages.
However, thanks to the hard work of Jan and Brian, it seems highly unlikely that you will be forced to ever link with Facebook: if that even will ever be possible to begin with.
These are legally binding agreements, so it's impossible that this is changed in a retroactive way. Facebook will NEVER be able to read your current messages nor your current history. That's all safe.

So should we fear this acquisition? I think not.
At least: there is currently absolutely no reason to fear for data you are currently sending (whilst the ToS is unchanged) and any data/messages you may have submitted in the past, considering WhatsApp does not store any messages.

Hope this blog helps to bring you a bit of peace. :)
Thanks for reading.

Volgende: Telegram's Privacy Policy ontleed 03-'14 Telegram's Privacy Policy ontleed
Volgende: HTC One how-to: lockscreen notificaties terug forceren. 01-'14 HTC One how-to: lockscreen notificaties terug forceren.


By Tweakers user MicGlou, Thursday 20 February 2014 07:34

Only thing I have to say about this is: fuck it, screw Whatsapp! Facebook is becoming a true monster, a nightmare people just can't get away from. Although I can understand the owners motivations, possibly the most profitable sell in history... but as a 'customer' I'm feeling pretty screwed right now.

By Tweakers user WhatsappHack, Thursday 20 February 2014 07:41

Why though, MicGlou? Nothing changed so far... :)
And there won't be any advertisements.

The only thing left that remains to be seen is whether or not they will change the privacy policy (as explained above, currently not changed yet and it will take a few months most likely: *IF* they will change that policy.) and whether or not the yearly price goes up...

Other than that... It will stay *exactly* the same. Just like they did with Instagram really. :)
At this point... There is nothing to feel screwed about.

[Comment edited on Thursday 20 February 2014 07:42]

By Tweakers user MicGlou, Thursday 20 February 2014 08:11

Why? Because I don't trust Facebook, they have very different motivations, it's their business to know as much as possible about you and me. Nothing has changed yet... of course. But give it a year... You say instagram hasn't changed, but facebook does have access to their content, that's bad enough for me. To me Facebook is the worst of them all... worse than Google, Microsoft and Apple.

By Tweakers user i-chat, Thursday 20 February 2014 08:28

sounding like a true believer,

no seriously, even if you believe that no ever binding legal document was ever secretly undermined, how likely is it that facebook wil no be tempted to change the TOS more sooner than later,

i dont 'really' believe that they up until now kept histories of any of my chats, but as i stands i dont really believe it will take long before these changes wil be made, preferably in a way that most people will miss the changed document,

you have to remember that it is perfectly legal to change the TOS without explicit concent from user end users, meaning that thair concent is implied when using your services, fact of the matter is, you the end user, are required to check and double check the status of any of the tosses that you once applied to on a regular basis so that you know they are stil in place, and a company like FB hasn't changed it yet...

this is a BIG gaping hole in our privacy legislation and it should be adressed, but until then, i would definitly advise any person to remove his/her account while facebook (according to your blog) stil cant reach for your data. because once they can, they will and there wont be a way back after that...

By Tweakers user WhatsappHack, Thursday 20 February 2014 08:40

Whilst inherently true, the ToS has not changed yet and because WhatsApp remains being indepent AND knowing the vision of Jan and Brian: it is not sure if those changes will be made **to the default WhatsApp ToS**.

There is the turning point where, should you opt to link your WhatsApp account to Facebook, that FB will have full access at that point.
But until then and as long as you don't link it, once the ToS remains unchanged (and yes, only time will tell how fast that will be) there is nothing to fear.

I wouldn't recommend people removing their account until any ToS changes are made that are unfavorable or in the scenario you *must* link to Facebook, but I doubt the latter will ever happen.
And even at the moment the ToS is changed: if you already have a Facebook account and make use of Messenger or to dump your stuff on there already: there is not a pressing need to remove either, depending on how you personally feel about it of course. I don't think most people will actually care to be honest.

One thing to keep in mind: they cannot retroactively change the ToS. So whilst it remains unchanged, and it still is now: it will always be impossible for FB to acquire your earlier submitted data. If any is retained at all.

As always, time will tell... :)

By Tweakers user Barleone, Thursday 20 February 2014 13:30

I don't think the day will come, but Facebook can change WhatsApp to send your old messages back to their servers. They can even cover it up as a back-up service provided to you.

Just saying: nothing has changed YET.

[Comment edited on Thursday 20 February 2014 13:32]

By Tweakers user Dreeke fixed, Thursday 20 February 2014 14:00

If you uninstall whatsapp and reinstall whatsapp all your messages are restored, from where?

By Tweakers user MicGlou, Thursday 20 February 2014 14:25

Dreeke fixed wrote on Thursday 20 February 2014 @ 14:00:
If you uninstall whatsapp and reinstall whatsapp all your messages are restored, from where?
Phone memory? SD-card? One of those... absolutely not on the servers of Whatsapp. Because if it would, your messages would also transfer when you have a new Phone or change OS... and it doesn't (to my frustration I discovered this)

When you try to uninstall whatsapp, you also have to clear the program cache and check the folders... just like on almost any other OS, programs always leave a little bit of residu behind.

[Comment edited on Thursday 20 February 2014 14:26]

By Tweakers user Blokker_1999, Thursday 20 February 2014 14:40

And pigs can fly ....

come on. BB was also secure until we found out that it has a backdoor and governments had access to it. FB really isn't gonna pay €11,6bn because they like the app. No they want to dominate the market of stayin in contact with other people and as a publicly traded company their number 1 goal is making revenue and profit. You don't do that by buying up a company only to let it continue to compete with your other products.

By Tweakers user TIGER79, Thursday 20 February 2014 14:41

Technically speaking every client has its own history stored locally in a db, so the only thing Facebook would need to do (after having changed the ToS obviously) is publish a new WhatsApp version that actually sends the locally stored history to their servers...

By Tweakers user Eelco.L., Thursday 20 February 2014 16:32

By Tweakers user WhatsappHack, Thursday 20 February 2014 07:41
Why though, MicGlou? Nothing changed so far... :)
And there won't be any advertisements.

The only thing left that remains to be seen is whether or not they will change the privacy policy (as explained above, currently not changed yet and it will take a few months most likely: *IF* they will change that policy.) and whether or not the yearly price goes up...

Other than that... It will stay *exactly* the same. Just like they did with Instagram really. :)
At this point... There is nothing to feel screwed about.

just like how facebook promised not to sell our data to 3rd parties and right after the takeover from darpa we could whistle to that agreement? Because they seemed to have wiped their ass with it. and ofcourse the whole world was like.. who cares i have nothing to hide. Which is fair enough, but what they propably don't realise is that power is moving to one location.. when too much power is in the hands of 1 person bad things happen... it's happening right now.

Call me the new nostradamus.. i'm predicting right now that within now and 5 years all whatsapp data will have been gathered and monitored. ( in my country, the netherlands, at criminology @ school we learned that the police already monitors peoples whatsapp messages)
Which is good to catch bad guys... but very bad for the foundation of the netherlands.

1966 V.N - Niemand mag worden onderworpen aan willekeurige of onwettige inmenging in zijn privéleven, zijn gezinsleven, zijn huis en zijn briefwisseling, noch aan onwettige aantasting van zijn eer en goede naam, Een ieder heeft recht op bescherming door de wet tegen zodanige inmenging of aantasting.

1966 V.N - Nobody may be subjected to random or unlegal interferance of his private life, his family life, his house or his letter exchange, neither to unlegal violation of his honor and good name, Every person has the right on protection by the law against such interferance or violation.

The whole foundation in which the netherlands was build on has been ripped from our hands.. we can now call ourselfs North-Americans. I'm embarrased, mad and dissapointed for my country these days...

[Comment edited on Thursday 20 February 2014 16:33]

By Tweakers user WhatsappHack, Thursday 20 February 2014 18:14

Afaik, that backdoor was not intentional, heh.
And yes, Facebook wants to make profits and revenue. And they can do that with WhatsApp's subscription model. Yesterday they said they needed a different approach for WhatsApp than Facebook itself, and will follow that course.

That would be illegal to send in. So that won't happen.
They can only change is to that *NEW* messages would be sent there. Existing messages... No, that's very very illegal and will never happen.
And new messages at this point will not either considering the privacy policy and ToS have not been altered. And I think it will stay that way... Facebook said, in a phone conversation, yesterday that they want to make money from WhatsApp's subscription model and that "this is a good start"; hinting that the price will go up a little: but there will be no ads and no forced linking to your Facebook or whatever. WhatsApp will remain independent and the policies will stay the same. Jan and Brian took care of that, but what we need to see is whether that will indeed hold up or not.
So far: it seems to be. :)

So it seems Facebook wants to keep WhatsApp the way it is, it won't be rigged with advertisements and I don't think they want to do the privacy thing as that will kill WhatsApp: their only option is to make WhatsApp more expensive. But... Even if it was $5 USD per year, i'd still buy it personally.
Personal choices, I know. :)

I doubt that, but respect your opinion. :)
Also, those laws do not apply if you CONSENT to such privacy violations.
Just like signing up with Google: you agree to all terms, services and privacy policies. By doing so, you grant Google permission to "enter your house", figuratively speaking.
So it's not illegal and the foundation has not been damaged.

And you have the choice to revoke that access again, so it's not like they keep doing it... Hence: it's legal, even by the 1966 laws. YOU consent to it, that's the major difference.

By Tweakers user TIGER79, Friday 21 February 2014 13:12

It's not illegal if they change their ToS and you agree upon it...
And also if someting is illegal it does not mean someone will act upon it, just ask the NSA ;)

They still have to earn back the 40 dollar per account they paid for it, I am guessing 5 USD a year simply wont cut it....

[Comment edited on Friday 21 February 2014 13:13]

By Tweakers user Felyrion, Friday 21 February 2014 16:21

I'm just surprised you "forgot" that FB has to earn some of that money back.
Somehow FB thinks it is a good idea to spend this kind of money on WhatsApp. That means they think it is good for FB's business prospects in the future. How??

The only thing I personally can think of is the usage of more of MY private data. Whether that will be for adds or anything else, I don't care. Something will change. Whether I can directly see it or not.

So me and my friends moved away to Telegram already.
Is that better you might ask? It's in the hands of the "russion facebook owner"?

Maybe not better, but at least it's open source, so it could be run by others if we ever find out it's not as safe as advertised. And at the very least I have spread my private data omongst a few different companies.
None of them will have the "complete picture".

By Tweakers user WhatsappHack, Friday 21 February 2014 19:32

Sure they could change it, but they don't have any intention to do that. (Yet, perhaps.) For now, it will stay this way, and I think it will stay that way for a considerable amount of time.
As to how Facebook can easily make the money back, see below.

Yeah, it's open source. But so what? :)
They could make Facebook open source tomorrow, what does that change to their privacy policy though? Nothing.

Telegram's privacy policy is a joke. It's non-existant. Their privacy policy states one thing, and one thing only: "We save all your data on our servers".
That's ALL that's in their privacy policy. Whilst WhatsApp's privacy policy clearly states that chats are not stored nor is any history kept. What's safer? ;) The app you have a binding agreement with that states they cannot and will not violate your privacy (and sure: that can change, but it hasn't changed yet so I don't see any reason to move at this point) or the one that doesn't guarantee your privacy at all and outright states they keep all your stuff stored? ;)
It's funny how people trade a safe app for a unsafer one. But perhaps it's just me that thinks it's rather ironic.

I have explained how Facebook can easily make back the money they spent on WhatsApp **without advertisements and without mining your data** right here, in Dutch though:
WhatsappHack in 'nieuws: Duitse privacywaakhond adviseert WhatsApp-gebruikers over te stappen'

One more thing... It's not as easy as "it could be ran by someone else". That means you need everyone to switch there again, you need the server capacity, et cetera, et cetera.
This simply does not have the power and simplicity of WhatsApp...

Look, if you're really paranoid about the whole WhatsApp thing, even though there is absolutely no reason for it at all at this point, then at least get a more reliable solution such as BBM; don't switch to a vague application with no privacy policy at all... Telegram is dangerous.

[Comment edited on Friday 21 February 2014 19:34]

By Tweakers user Felyrion, Friday 21 February 2014 21:20

You make some good points, though in the end for me it just comes down to the fact that FB has done nothing to make me feel safe with them. They have a bad reputation.
And I am willing to leave WhatsApp as a result, even if it is only to send a message.

(and still, I dont buy the subscription businessmodel you mention. There is nothing special about whatsapp, except for the established userbase. So in my view they bought the userbase, not the product itself. But that is just my opinion and for another discussion).

So i spread my cards, thats it. Ok, so maybe that other company has my chat and mobile contacts data as was the case with WhatsApp. I didn't trust them either. But at least your data is spread.

For the same reason I dont only use google products or microsoft products. I try to be concious with what those companies could do with my data if they were to become "evil" and spread my risks.

Maybe I'm being paranoid though :) could well be. I do hope so.

By Tweakers user WhatsappHack, Saturday 22 February 2014 02:24

Fair enough, that's one of the most reasonable and substantiated explanations I've heard so far, thanks for that! :)
Most others don't come any further than "because facebook sucks!" or "WhatsappHack, you're full of shit and must be working for them!", hehe.
The rather sad thing is... You pretty much posted your personal feeling, which just like my personal view on the matter do not necessarily equal facts: yet it's still a better/clearer explanation than I've heard most people say in the past two days. :X

All there's left for me to note is in response to your first line:
keep in mind; Facebook != WhatsApp. They own it, but it's still a separate entity, with its own privacy policy.
Facebook certainly has a bad reputation (and I can't get my head around it why people, including myself :X, still use it despite knowing the potential implications if you don't watch your private data), but their privacy invading stuff has not reached WhatsApp. Yet. :) Hope it stays that way; otherwise: i'm out of WhatsApp myself as well. :P
I certainly appreciate and understand your concern with Facebook; I was rather shocked as well when I first heard of the acquisition. Just a bit of reading and digging gave me peace of mind. :)

[Comment edited on Saturday 22 February 2014 02:27]

By Tweakers user MBV, Saturday 22 February 2014 15:53

You forget one important point. Facebook asks for nearly every permission Android has to offer (I'll set up a sandbox soon to find out what they actually use them for), so it also knows the serial number and phone number of your phone. Linking chat history to facebook account is childplay with this info.

So even though it would be highly illegal (good luck suing a 30 billion dollar company, under which jurisdiction?) it is very well possible. They could even transfer the data between the two apps using special intents, pipes or whatever.

[Comment edited on Saturday 22 February 2014 15:56]

By Tweakers user WhatsappHack, Saturday 22 February 2014 18:49

That's called spyware though if they aggregate that and would make Google's day as they would kick both Facebook and WhatsApp out of the Play Store sooner than they can ask them to wait. And Apple... Not sure, but I doubt they will allow it IF it's even possible for apps to gather such info from other apps. (Bit different than Android of course.)

But a class action lawsuit: lawyers in the US are not afraid of that :P
It's all theories on what *might* and *could* happen, but I don't see it happening right now.

Comments are closed