How The New Whatsapp Policy Threatens Security Of Nigerians And Other Alternatives

WhatsApp has been alive since 2009, providing a primary means of transmission to over 2 billion users worldwide as of February 2020.

The popular messaging platform has faced backlash since it unrolled the newest Privacy Policy update on January 4.

The app announced its new policy which it might force its users to simply accept by February 8, or stop using the app. The new policy will allow WhatsApp to share data with its parent, Facebook.

The new policy however doesn't apply in EU, since it violates data protection laws.

With its parent company, Facebook, being embroiled in legal tussles over privacy concerns, and therefore the new policy not leaving much choice for users, the marketplace for WhatsApp alternatives is flourishing.

Apps like Telegram and Signal have witnessed a surge of newcomers to its respective platforms.

Apptopia recorded 5.6 million downloads of Telegram globally from Wednesday through Sunday, while Signal was installed 7.5 million times globally through both the Apple App Store and Google Play store between January 6 and January 10, consistent with reports from Sensor Tower.

Do these messaging platforms have what it takes to replace WhatsApp?

In terms of knowledge security, Signal offers secure encrypted end to end communication between users, while WhatsApp doesn't encrypt backups (cloud/local) and metadata.

In 2019, WhatsApp group chats were being discovered on Google search also as user profiles exposure through an easy search. This was said to be fixed in March last year.

Also Read: What Would You Do If This Second Wave Of Coronavirus Start Turning People Into Zombies? 

Telegram, on the opposite hand, doesn't provide encryption for group chats unless you employ Secret Chats, which only support single-user communication.

When it involves user privacy, Signal seems to supply the foremost secured form of communication you'll get on the web .

Here’s an inventory of knowledge each of the messaging apps collects from their users:

WhatsApp collects information like device ID, user ID, advertising data, purchase history, coarse location, telephone number , email address, contacts, product interaction, crash data, performance data, other diagnostic data, payment info, customer support, product interaction and other user content

While Telegram collects Contact Info, Contacts, and User ID, and Signal only saves your telephone number .

Policy defence offered by WhatsApp

The social media company clarified in a FAQ blog post that the new policy update doesn't affect the privacy of users’ messages when they’re interacting with friends or family, it only includes changes associated with messaging a business on WhatsApp and provides further explanation on how the app collects and uses data.

“Whatever you share, it stays between you. That’s because your personal messages are protected by end-to-end encryption. we'll never weaken this security and that we clearly label each chat so you recognize our commitment,” says the post.

How would the new Privacy Policy affect Nigerians and Nigeria?

WhatsApp is the most commonly used application for messaging in Nigeria, ranking #1 on mobile app stores. With a population of over 200 million people, WhatsApp will be aware about an entire nation’s worth of data . This poses a threat to National Security.

While WhatsApp claims to not read the messages and knowledge shared on its platform; its Parent, Facebook, has shown mishandling/sharing its users data. Since the new policy will allow Facebook owned companies to access this information, this stands to reason that Nigeria’s messages are often sold to the very best bidder.

The categories of Nigerians that stand to lose information with this new update include high ranking members of the govt and people within the political class, influential Nigerians, business leaders and heads of corporations. The press and civil society activists could even be targeted.

Peoples Gazette is conscious of the existence of several WhatsApp groups belonging to individuals within the current administration like the Senate and other top functionaries. Security and Intelligence agencies also often liaise in this manner.

Businessmen and firms (local and multinationals) like Jumia and MTN (who trade on the stock exchange) also because the press rely on Whatsapp’s ease and therefore the illusion of encryption to pass sensitive information between staff and colleagues.

By February 8, remaining on WhatsApp means information like insider and trading secrets by the business class, administrative plans and security details by the govt , and sensitive information by the press are often mined and sold by Facebook.

What should the Nigerian government do?

In 2019, The NITDA went after Truecaller, a telephone number identification app, claiming the app contained provisions that violated Nigeria’s Data Protection Regulations and had taken more information that it needed to render its services.

Instances like this show that Nigerians are still susceptible to data breaches due to the shortage of strong data protection laws.

Nigeria doesn't have a selected statute regulating Data Privacy and protection, the NITDA created the Nigeria Data Protection Regulations (NDPR) in 2019 which specifically addresses Data Privacy and Protection in Nigeria.

If the govt cares so much about data privacy of its citizens, then it should pursue exemption from the new policy by WhatsApp as EU countries have already achieved. Otherwise the authorities can ask that Nigeria be withdrawn from WhatsApp’s services altogether.

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