Facebook buys WhatsApp - Will Your Personal Texts Be Data-Mined?
By Red Ice Creations
Facebook just bought the social networking app ’WhatsApp" for a large sum of $16 billion, granting access to the app’s vast international user base.
The popular app is described by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as a "simple, fast and reliable mobile messaging service". It’s popularity stems from the implied privacy of the software, and it was a way to communicate with family and friends while avoiding expensive phone plans.
Enter Facebook, well known for its invasive data mining, and now the issue may be that WhatsApp users will no longer have the privacy they’re used to.
A recent Maclean’s article suggests that WhatsApp users might be in for more than they’ve bargained for.
As reported by Mclean’s:
[...]here’s an interesting thought: so much of Facebook’s revenue-generation strategy relies on target marketing and data-mining, and considering its base of young people and growing foreign markets, data-mining WhatsApp would be the equivalent of data-mining text messages. What Facebook does best is allow you to give a sense of the things that define you and who you really are, but that means there’s a lot of social media preening, a defense mechanism that goes down when you’re off social media, while calling or texting your friends in intimate and personal moments. If we’re a projected, best version of ourselves on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn, what could advertisers do with knowledge of what we’re like when we’re our actual selves? WhatsApp’s creator says users will not see any changes and that it will not integrate ads, but that doesn’t preclude under-the-hood tinkering that could provide more information for ads on the Facebook platform.
Facebook is notorious for data collection, aggressive advertising, and the shunning of ’privacy’ as irrelevant to today’s society. It will undoubtedly push past any limitations that were the intentions of the WhatsApp founders.
WhatsApp prides itself on limiting data collection from its users. Both of WhatsApp’s founders, Jan Koum and Brian Acton worked for Yahoo and saw how tech companies exploited users’ online activity to make better ads. “These days companies know literally everything about you, your friends, your interests, and they use it all to sell ads,” the founders wrote on WhatsApp’s blog. “When we sat down to start our own thing together three years ago we wanted to make something that wasn’t just another ad clearinghouse.”
Koum, who grew up in communist Ukraine, is a staunch privacy supporter because of his upbringing. “Jan’s childhood made him appreciate communication that was not bugged or taped,” Jim Goetz, a partner with Sequoia Capital, a WhatsApp investor, told the Wall Street Journal.
The app was built on the premise that people can share messages, photos and videos without interference from third parties. Those messages are deleted off WhatsApp’s servers once they’re delivered.
Now under new management, users should not assume that their SMS messages are private, and should take care with the content of their messages the same way that they did previously with their Facebook posts (you did that, right?). In the era of ubiquitous global surveillance for money and control, it’s in our best interest to maintain those privacy ’defense mechanisms’ when not face-to-face with our contacts.
By Red Ice Creations
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