After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook is facing a severe backlash from a lot of communities who are concerned about their data and its security online. Questions are also being raised about the WhatsApp instant messaging platform which is actually owned by Facebook. WhatsApp denied the claims saying that their platform wasn’t supportive of sharing user data for illicit purposes and also said that the messages are end to end encrypted which make it impossible to collect data from the users. The popular platform with 200 million users in India is known for being the most widely used messaging service online in the country.
As per the report by PTI, the official words of the WhatsApp spokesperson were “WhatsApp collects very little data, and every message is end-to-end encrypted. Contrary to recent comments in the media, we are not keeping track of the friends and family you have messaged”.
When asked about the security of users’ data, the spokesperson replied that privacy and security of the users are important aspects to WhatsApp. He also added invite links were an optional feature available to group administrators, but it must be used only with trusted individuals.
Speaking about the issue of group invite links which have been notoriously known to increase spamming and abuse of user’s information, the representative told: “Whenever a new member joins a group all members receive a notification that includes whether the person was added via group link or by an administrator directly. Group members can always see everyone in the group including their phone number and their name. We make it easy to leave a group or block unwanted messages with one tap.”
Vivk Wadhwa, a top American technology entrepreneur, said that the data that WhatsApp stores is the metadata of the message which includes, the date and time stamp and the sender’s and user’s numbers. He also alleged that “WhatsApp has admitted that it is sharing information about identity and device information with Facebook, allowing it to do the dirty work in snooping on users.”
He also criticised the group chat feature of the application, which is immensely popular and claimed that it puts users at even greater risk. Another New-York based attorney Ravi Batra shared a similar ideology and said that given the number of people who are using WhatsApp for free which is one quarter or more than the population of the world, WhatsApp is doing dirty work by collecting data from the users and Facebook is acting as its accomplice.
Amidst this push and pull between the digital age activists and large tech companies it is now left to be seen which side has heavier arguments and also whether or not WhatsApp, which is being trusted by people all over the world is misusing that faith.