back to article WhatsApp: Share your data with Facebook, or we'll make our own app useless to you

WhatsApp users who refuse to accept its new privacy policy will slowly but surely be cut off from the chat app, the social network has confirmed. In January, WhatsApp users were told if they wanted to keep using the software, they must agree to an updated fine print that, among other things, allows their data to be passed onto …

  1. sgp

    An instant messaging racket, a mere 3 decades after IRC. What a time to be alive.

    1. jake Silver badge

      You make it sound like IRC is gone. It's not. Hundreds of thousands of people still use it world-wide.

    2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Some of us old-timers are seriously contemplating going back to BBS systems.

      Yes, those which we used with modems etc. But adapted for the multi-user environment, able to handle more than one (or two) logged on users.

      1. PeeKay

        Surely a BBS is no different from, say, a forum?

        Decentralise from Facebook/WhatsApp/Instagram and use things like Mastodon/Signal/PixelFed instead.

        Sure, you have to use a server, as would a BBS.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Usenet and IRC still work quite nicely.

          1. ThatOne Silver badge
            Happy

            Different use: I somehow can't visualize teenagers using Usenet to check on their friends...

            1. jake Silver badge

              You underestimate teenagers. As I wrote back in July of 2018:

              "My eldest Niece reports that comp-sci students at her Uni implemented a "students only" UUCP network over the existing school network a couple years ago. It's mostly used for email, small file transfer, and a private Usenet hierarchy. Seems the thirty-somethings who are supposedly the administrators never learned UUCP and have no idea that what they are doing even exists. No, I'm not naming the Uni ... but apparently they are connected to other schools, world-wide, and the PTB are none the wiser. To get around draconian filters, they even have a couple links that are dial-up, over POTS, if you can believe it. Good for them! :-)"

              1. ThatOne Silver badge

                > You underestimate teenagers.

                Might be, yet many if not most teenagers aren't computer science students (or even university students)... "Normal" teenagers haven't the slightest clue what "Usenet" was/is, but that's besides the point anyway, since the whole point is to be "connected" to the others and that means they'll use what their friends use.

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Most of the kids on the Niece's clandestine Uni system aren't comp sci majors, either. In fact, the Niece has just finished her pre-vet work, and been accepted to two Vet schools, her choice of either Madison or Davis.

                  "Normal" teenagers knew what Usenet was before AOL became a Wall Street & Media darling. Easy access to unlimited free porn will do that to a kid who is dying of hormone poisoning. BBSes with free read-only Usenet access couldn't get lines installed fast enough ...

                  But whatever. Convince the kids that their parents/teachers don't use or understand Usenet/IRC/email and the kids will flock to it.

  2. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

    So, is it the WhatsApp app that stops working, or the Facebook app?

    I'm not planning on installing the FB app ever, but WhatsApp has its uses.

    1. Hipster Dufus

      WhatsApp stops working

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
        Mushroom

        The difficulty I am having is persuading people to move to signal... they just don't see this as the issue it is.

        1. Martin Summers

          That'll be a signal to noise ratio problem.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I was thinking about moving to Signal but accelerated the whole process as friends and colleagues moved across.

            This might just be the final push to get rid of the 10% I still use WhatsApp for.

        2. ThatOne Silver badge

          > they just don't see this as the issue it is.

          Sure. Most people already gave Facebook all their data, so this changes nothing for them, their WhatsApp will keep working like before.

          Others will claim that given that X or Y are still on WhatsApp, they have to keep using it too, at any cost, it's a life-and-death situation.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            I block Facebook on my home network.

            My daughter came to visit. She claimed my Wi-Fi was broken, because she couldn't get to Instagram or send a WhatsApp message... I told her, I block Facebook...

            "But, this is Instagram!"

            "Yes, Facebook Instagram."

            "And WhatsApp!"

            "Yes, Facebook WhatsApp."

            Long silence.

            She now uses Signal, but still uses Instagram.

        3. jake Silver badge

          The more of this kind of stuff that "the news" reports on, the more folks that I know are moving back to making telephone calls. And suddenly remembering how easy it is to communicate with actual friends, as opposed to maintaining several accounts with psudo-friends they've never met, and never will meet.

          You didn't hear it from me, but it took 'em long enough ...

        4. big_D Silver badge

          I posted a long screed in our family WhatsApp group about 3 years ago and said I was moving to Signal.

          And I did just that. My close family has moved over, but most of the rest are still on WhatsApp... I just use the phone for what it was designed for, talking to people, and call them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The problem with WhatsApp is that you're giving away OTHER people's details without their permission. I'm not sure if this doesn't mean that organisations using it are already breaking GDPR.

      The first things WhatsApp does is copy your address book wholesale to their servers (read: with contact details that others have entrusted you with). Other apps such as Signal work with hashes that are deleted off the server after matching but no, the address book is the exact trophy that Zuck is after so there's no way in hell he's going to give that up.

      Remember, this is the guy that had no problem with trying to blackmail a whole country.

      I really, really hope that at some point someone will hack the living daylights out of his personal details and make it all public. After all, if he can grab that off his users it's only fair they get all of his.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Most companies I know of in Germany have banned WhatsApp from company phones.

        And most have a policy of no company data on private devices and no private data on company devices.

      2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Yes, under EU GDPR this is expressly illegal. No ifs or buts, it's is expressly illegal unless Faecesborg and all it's various bits gets the informed consent of EVERY person who's personal information is being hoovered.

        Asking the person who's handing it over isn't enough - even if they were being asked (their not, they're being coerced). Only the data subject can give that consent.

        It's not like GDPR is some sort of secret - even Faecesborg must have heard of it by now. So I see this as either a last ditch "grab everything while we can" like it's the Debenhams closing down sale - or it's them deliberately goading the EU authorities in a "go on, dare you" way on the basis that they (and their user base) are more powerful than the EU authorities. On that, if the EU decided on the nuclear option, there are others ready to step up and fill the void.

        But at least now I have a good excuse if someone tells me that I "must" use Whatsapp - I'll simply tell them that it's illegal to use, and BTW "if you ask again I'll report you to the ICO for breaking privacy regulations" (which we do still have in the UK ... for now).

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    Fantastic news!

    With luck the same will happen with the FB app as well and it will finally fall over and sink into the foetid swamp it crawled out of.

    "as it erases your message history, removes you from all of your WhatsApp groups, and deletes your WhatsApp backups,"

    Yeah! I really believe that feacebook will dump anything of potential value to them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Don't worry

      If you read between the lines, it's pretty clear that Facebook already has a copy of most of this information. Also, as you quote, requesting deletion removes the copy on What'sApp.

      Since most of their "privacy" functions were implement with a dark design pattern were the opt-out happens after they have already slurped up and transferred a users info to FB and other third parties, the opt-out only really stops future transfers of message content and new social graph connections. It gets all of those anyway unless everyone else you know also opt's out.

      So you are right, Zuck's not giving up anything he needs on this.

      The real threat is the fact that 85% of those asked have opted out, which will pretty much dispel the myth that "users don't care about privacy" they have worked so hard to sell over the years.

      Now we just need to get bill in front of those 85% so we can vote in a universal opt-in only law so we don't have to constantly be checking which boxes are ticked.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: opt out vs opt in, and what should be the default

        "The real threat is the fact that 85% of those asked have opted out, which will pretty much dispel the myth that "users don't care about privacy" they have worked so hard to sell over the years."

        Quite.

        And watching Zuck squirm in front of Congress (from memory, April 2018??) when someone asked why couldn't the slurping be "off by default, enabled on request" was quite enlightening too.

        Maybe someone needs to remind him. Unexpectedly it looks like Biden's team might be supportive of that idea.

  4. jake Silver badge

    Colo(u)r me surprised. Or not.

    Did anybody reading this actually think Zchmuck and his sycophants weren't going to suck every penny they possibly could out of the silly thing? If so, all I can say is what saps.

    1. don't you hate it when you lose your account

      Re: Colo(u)r me surprised. Or not.

      I believe everything he says (is totally bullshit).

      Edit for your own level of addiction to unsocial media.

  5. Winkypop Silver badge
    WTF?

    And people voluntarily sign up for this clusterf*ck?

    It should be called sociopath media.

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Go

      Re: And people voluntarily sign up for this clusterf*ck?

      Whatsapp was an independent messaging service. And a better one then just about anything else out there at the time. That's why it became hugely popular.

      No one asked for them to be bought by Facebook. Nobody asked for Facebook to start slurping their data from Whatsapp even when they had previou8sly nothing to do with Facebook.

      The number of people I know using Whatsapp has steadily dwindled since the takeover. But this new change will simply see me also dropping away and forcing my mother/relatives/friends to download Signal if they want to message me beyond a simple SMS.

      Bye bye Whatsapp. You were great once upon a time...

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "No one asked for them to be bought by Facebook."

        They were another company without a viable business model but to be sold for many $$$$$$ to someone wanting the users and their data.

      2. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: And people voluntarily sign up for this clusterf*ck?

        And one where the business model was charging something like $1 per year for access to the network rather than being funded by advertising.

  6. Magani
    Megaphone

    Plus 1 to Fritz

    "...the change in policy has even driven Germany to temporarily ban Facebook from processing people's personal info from WhatsApp under the GDPR."

    Can we expand this a bit more. Say, to every country with a connection to the InterWebs?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Plus 1 to Fritz

      Not so much Fritz as Max Schrems. Every country could use a few. Along with a Snowden that hasn't broke cover,

      yet...

  7. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. JDPower666 Silver badge

      Re: Trust may be a killer offering

      I'm sure you could have spammed your blog a bit more if you really put some effort in.

      1. btrower

        Re: Trust may be a killer offering

        Oops. Sorry :( Neurodivergence? It was all part of the post. It was long without the links and dumping it all in there would be a wall of text too much even for me.

        Nobody, AFAIK is looking at that blog much except for me. Its been there for more than a decade, and took over from something that was years old itself. It's hardly like I promote it. Come to think of it, both of my kids are now being paid for SEO. If I wanted traction like that, I could probably get it.

        It's just a place where I make notes for stuff because Google is pretty good at keeping that thing alive. I put that in place more than 13 years ago now because after a decade of having vendors disappear and take my servers down with them, I decided that I needed to have a place that was reasonably dependable. At the risk of making your head explode, it's because of stuff like the below which had been happening for decades then and is unbelievably still happening.

        http://blog.bobtrower.com/2008/01/life-in-hell.html

        If it's any consolation, I have been a member here for more than ten years. I used to post a lot, and this is my first post in quite a while.

        Also, FWIW, if someone were to act on that post, it would likely make the world a better place. :)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Trust may be a killer offering

          @btrower: Your blog can't even be read without enabling JavaScript. Thanks, but very definitely no thanks. (But then, you're hosting it with Google, bleugh.)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Trust may be a killer offering

            It can't even be read when you allow JS, either. Guessing something on the blog platform has gone Chrome-only, and Chrome is a no-go aside from exceptional one-off use for me - I don't even have it installed on most of my systems. Possibly "maybe-works-with-actual-Firefox", as I'm not using that either - Seamonkey with NoScript, or Pale Moon for me.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Trust may be a killer offering

          Ignore the downvoting haters, but at least move your blog off Google. You know how to run servers - you can get VMs for $2.50 a month, and even for free if you just use a Unix account for admin. - sdf.org has been running since Jurassic times. But even if it were to go down, you own your own domain and could seamlessly move it!

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Trust may be a killer offering

      Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, and to a lesser extent Apple and Amazon, are vulnerable to a nimble competitor in their most profitable, high-margin areas.

      Like WhatsApp was, before Facebook bought it?

      1. sabroni Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Like WhatsApp was, before Facebook bought it?

        And still are, yes.

        Facebook is the first name in your list of "vulnerable to a nimble competitor". Why would them buying WhatsApp mean WhatsApp isn't "vulnerable to a nimble competitor"?

        Think it through.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Like WhatsApp was, before Facebook bought it?

          I am. Any nimble competitor gets bought up and repurposed to send more data to the FAANMG data slurp machine.

  8. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    MeWe : https://mewe.com

    Looks like they're gaining traction.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Friends who haven’t moved to signal or telegram now have to rely on SMS to contact me now, been on What’s App since the early days back when UK networks charged for every text message, but have been reducing use of WA since it was assimilated by the Zuckerborg, and this latest change was enough to make me expel it forever.

    Sad that the UK regulators are so inactive in this area, I guess the rights of citizens are once again secondary to the interests of big business. It is well past time that the creepy Facebook stalking was reigned in and more closely controlled, especially in the case of those of us who have never had and never want a Facebook account.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Trouble is, all those so called "friends" will have given Faecesborg all the information on your that they want, and you don't want them to have.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    move along

    "though not the contents of encrypted messages and calls"

    Ah, that's only for now, but in time, this will come "by accident" if it is ever noticed. Really, they will sell messages contents.

    Whatsapp is fucked as heck, now, the Zuck company needs to make money out of the 16 Billion USD they've paid for it.

    Come on, there is no free meal !

    I've uninstalled all of it, installed Signal and Telegram instead.

    It's not like I am in the defense industry, but really, this app is like posting in the public.

    Not even secure enough to talk with your GF.

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: move along

      Not even secure enough to talk with your GF.

      She says "hi", by the way!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shrug

    WhatsApp? No sorry never installed it. sms or LINE work fine.

  12. thondwe

    HMG?

    So Facebook has a better idea of who our P.M. /ex P.M.s communicates over WhatsApp with that we do?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: HMG?

      Most likely that is true.

      If FB knows then so does the NSA et Al, because I can't believe the TLAs wouldn't be privy to the communications of any luser of interest who use the platforms.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: HMG?

      It has been reported in various places that many MPs have since moved to Signal. This is one instance where many of them aren't actually as stupid as they look.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HMG?

        > that many MPs have since moved to Signal

        They use it to discuss cracking down on encryption....

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    contacts?

    I never understand when articles say things like 'contact data is copied'. How does that work, legally? I mean if I am your contact and they slurp your contact information then isn't that also personal information about me? So don't they need my consent, as well as yours, to even begin to think about slurping that data?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: contacts?

      I'm just waiting for the day one of these big firms takes the Sprawl route and declares itself sovereign and dares the rest of the world to do something about it.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: contacts?

        I suspect they would mysteriously disappear off the face of TehIntraWebTubes by the power of DNS and the simultaneous loss of power in a few key locations.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: contacts?

      Nope. You gave your contact info to your firend, he's the data controller. In turn, he gives permission to FB so sue your friend.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: contacts?

        It's not just the contact info that Facebook is selling to anybody with enough loose change, it's also the RELATIONSHIPS between all that contact info. Neither I, nor my friend, have access to all that. Only Facebook does.

        Well, to be perfectly accurate, I do not now, and never have had a Facebook account. I have never even logged onto any of their sites. Anything they have on me has been slurped without anything even remotely resembling consent.

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          Re: contacts?

          Yes, and unless you're a loner with only one or two contacts you only speak to once a year, Facebook can triangulate enough data about you to create a full profile: Job, personal life, interests, your picture, everything.

          You definitely don't need to have an account (and obviously even less give any consent) for Facebook to sell your full curriculum to anybody interested...

          1. skeptical i
            Thumb Down

            Re: contacts?

            re: "You definitely don't need to have [a FB] account"

            It looks like fecebook, in addition to whatever accounts individuals make themselves, has a slew of accounts it generates based on names it acquired (from phone book listings? other public sources?). One assumes this is bait, so anyone looking for Kris Kringle will find the generic generated page and interact with that (i.e., feed the feceborg more data) even if Kringle has not actually created a FB page. Point being that even if you avoid FB like the plague that it it, they may still be getting some traces of info on you if an auto-generated page with your name on it exists.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: contacts?

            "unless you're a loner with only one or two contacts you only speak to once a year"

            Hi.

            Meanwhile, does El Reg still have the iconettes for FaceBook, Twitter, etc on most pages? Obviously lots of other sites do even if El Reg has done the decent thing. And what info can be slurped courtesy of those iconettes?

            C'mon El Reg. Your legal eagle journos and many of your readers are ahead of the game here, help them out a bit.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: contacts?

      Is the mere act of asking for someone's contact list akin to phishing?

      Is this any different to the list of contacts that Google (other data slurpers are available) build from the headers of messages to/from G-Mail users? Heaven knows how much they then abstract from the message bodies - even if it isn't used for advertising (or whatever the current weasle words say).

      Is there likely to be ANYTHING in a social media contacts list that isn't, in some way, already in the wild?

      A non-user wants to know.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: contacts?

        > A non-user wants to know.

        There are no non-users. There are only collateral victims.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A non-user wants to know.

        Unless El Reg policy has improved dramatically, or unless visitors have taken explicit action of their own to block Facebook links from El Reg's site, then no one here has the option to be a "non-user". Same at many other sites.

        Just look up "shadow profile" and the anti-social network of interest.

    4. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: contacts?

      So don't they need my consent, as well as yours, to even begin to think about slurping that data?

      Yes, Faecesborg (and their various tentacles) must have your informed consent to legally hold and process your personal information - even if it's only your name. The person interacting with Faecesborg cannot give that consent even if they were asked for it - which they most definitely aren't being.

      As I wrote above, I have a feeling that they are given the EU authorities the middle finger and effectively shouting "go on then, I don't think you've got the balls". It'll take many years (see how long Max Schrems has been at it), but given FB cannot possibly have any defence (even if it were a defence) of ignorance of GDPR, and it's clearly not accidental (in the way that Google's slurping of WiFi data was "accidental"), then eventually it's going to come down on FB like a ... 4% of global turnover fine.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    WhatsApp users who refuse to accept its new privacy policy

    plain Englisch: you don't want to be fucked? We'll fuck you anyway!

    Whatsapp users: Nein! Nein! Google, "wo finde ich "Bedingungslose Kapitulation!", wo finde ich "Akzeptieren"?!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WhatsApp users who refuse to accept its new privacy policy

      As I understand it, Germany is one of the few countries where StreetView isn't generally available. So they seem to have got that message through somehow. Maybe it'll work with Whatsapp too?

  15. schultzter

    I blame Google for this mess!

    If they had just stuck with GTalk and kept it on jabber/XMPP and the servers open we could be living a messaging nirvana! They could have added SMS/MMS, GPhotos chat, GDocs comments, and what not to the steam. Third parties could have built their own clients and Google would have been shielded for monopoly accusations.

    But instead here we are bickering over which messenger to use if we want to stay friends!

    1. jake Silver badge

      "But instead here we are bickering over which messenger to use if we want to stay friends!"

      Me, I just pick up the telephone and call them. Simples.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I hate the telephone

        It's just plain rude - it interrupts whatever I was doing, and has to be answered immediately.

        The phone is only for emergencies and prearranged trysts.

        I rather think most people under 40 or so think that.

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          Re: I hate the telephone

          > I rather think most people under 40 or so think that.

          Although I hit 40 last century I kind of agree, I hate phone calls too, even when they are legit they always happen at the most inappropriate moment.

          That doesn't mean I use "social" media: Email is just fine to keep in touch with distant friends/family. Unfortunately email is apparently horribly dated and younger people wouldn't be seen dead using something that corny in their private life...

          Oh well, I'm an old fogy. Get off my lawn already!

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: I hate the telephone

            "they always happen at the most inappropriate moment."

            That's why answering machines were invented back in the 1930s. Frankly, I find a stand-alone answering machine to be more useful than any voice-mail system I've ever seen, at least for home/small business use.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: I hate the telephone

              "That's why answering machines were invented back in the 1930s. Frankly, I find a stand-alone answering machine to be more useful than any voice-mail system I've ever seen, at least for home/small business use."

              But for one problem: capacity. No answering machine I've ever encountered allows for easy downloading of messages so that the memory can be cleaned up for new messages. Too often, I hit answering machines and voice mails that are full and useless. The only solution I've been able to come up with is to make a Linux box that can use vgetty (I've tried using Pis, but supported USB voice modems are becoming more difficult to find and harder to support as vgetty isn't well-maintained anymore--plus there's the whole flash wear-and-tear issue).

            2. ThatOne Silver badge

              Re: I hate the telephone

              > That's why answering machines were invented back in the 1930s

              But that defeats the purpose of calling, doesn't it. We're back at a time-shifted medium where you alternatively leave stand-alone messages; Can as well use email for that, isn't it.

              (For the record I obviously do have an answering machine. Stand-alone, just besides my phones, running 24/7)

  16. chivo243 Silver badge

    Please do!

    Wreck this app, so my boss will find something else besides What's App... Where I'm at What's app is used for too much, some neighborhoods even have signs up about What's app neighborhood watch groups!

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: Please do!

      Where are you ? If in Europe, or even the UK for now, then tell your boss he's breaking the law and if he persists you'll report him. If you're sacked for it, then that's straight to the tribunal for a guaranteed win for unfair dismissal.

      Of course, to that does need a considerable level of self assertiveness and confidence - not to mention the ability to withstand being unemployed (potentially for a while given the current situation) so I would understand if you weren't brave enough to do it.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's hard to tell whose intent to snoop is more disturbing - Facebook, or Priti Patel...

  18. Dabooka

    So, Signal vs Telegram

    What's your experiences?

    I appreciate I'll get suggestions to use Enigma machines and carrier pigeons but let's be realistic here.

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Go

      Re: So, Signal vs Telegram

      Short answer: Telegram is arguably less secure than Signal but is better for group chat. Discord seems to be displacing Telegram as the group chat platform of choice, however, based on my personal anecdotal experience. I have no insight into the relative security of Discord.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: So, Signal vs Telegram

      Having evaluated both, I'll stick with IRC.

      Tried pigeons once. Granpa was right ... noisy rats with wings.

  19. Celeste Reinard

    Do-Laa

    So, what it boils down to, is that, as El Presidente of Gnome Country, Do-Laa the First, the Last, and Only, I have conversations with my psychiatrist, while I have befriended on Fb Satan and Hitler, and then my boss will find out about it. ... Can't be bothered, it's time anyway the idiot knows what I think about him. What's wrong with honesty?

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