Why I stopped using WhatsApp

Why I stopped using WhatsApp

WhatsApp, why I stopped using it and why you should too — My Journey to Digital Detox

What started, as a small project when the iPhone was introduced and the world of the App Store was unleashed to any would be developers in 2009 was transferred from a modest user base of 250,000 to over 2 billion active users by 2020. The idea was simple to allow people to communicate using VoIP instantly. The advent of notifications on the iPhone gave a completely new meaning to instant messaging. Although encryption was not part of the early WhatsApp versions, it took 3 years for some sort of encryption to be part of the package. Unlike Facebook WhatsApp allowed private instant messaging to all your mobile phone contacts. You could share text messages, images and videos. International boundaries were eliminated as there was no extra charge for talking with your loved ones whenever and wherever they maybe. WhatsApp was a great tool to keep your private conversations private even before encryption was introduced in 2012. Dictators feared such Apps because they did not hold and monitor the data as they do with text messages. Monitoring such Apps was a nightmare as it became apparent during the Arab Springs of 2011. Since then all dictators whether they come in the form of authoritarian or liberal, decided personal information should also be available to governments under the guise of protecting the nation. The data grab is happening as we speak in many different shapes and sizes.

I remember using WhatsApp in early 2010 when most had not heard about the App but one recommendation led to another and before you knew it, your whole network was using WhatsApp, which soon became the go to App to share instant messaging and so began the demise of text messaging which was limited and expensive. I was an active user until 2014 when Facebook bought WhatsApp and added to its portfolio of being the communication King. As there were no real alternatives, I stuck with WhatsApp and Facebook. The largest advertising company in the world had bought the largest private communication tool in the world. It was clear to me at some point one had to give. The need either to scavenge data or to even blend different types of data over different platforms that Facebook own or stick to the original ethos of WhatsApp, which was “No ads, no games, no gimmicks”. The two do not go together. One of the co-founders of WhatsApp who had joined Facebook as part of the deal left Facebook in 2017 over Facebooks plan to monetize WhatsApp, in doing so he was due to loose over $850 million in stock shares but Acton took the moral decision, and still chose to leave Facebook. Surely, that has to be one of the most expensive moral stands to date.

In order for the deal to go ahead, it had to pass the strict European anti-trust loopholes. After leaving Facebook Acton confirms that he “was coached to explain that it would be really difficult to merge or blend data between the two systems,” This was not entirely true. The private deal was the Facebook would not look into this for the near future. Facebook was later fined to the sum of $120 million for providing incorrect information but by then the deal had gone through and was too late.

Why am I mentioning Acton and Facebook? Because for me it was a case of good versus evil. It was one motto against another. WhatsApp original motto of “No ads, no games, no gimmicks” and the Facebook original motto of “Move fast and break things”. For me one advocate’s data privacy and other breaks data privacy to achieve greater revenue at any cost.

SO Why stop using WhatsApp?

  1. Because your data matters. This is not an issue of ‘I do not have anything to hide’ but is it morally right to prostitute your data? Acton does not think so and he took moral stance that cost him $850 Million.
  2. Your data is not encrypted and that means it is not secure.
  3. Your metadata is shared with Facebook and which means they know who you talk to, for how long and which groups you belong to.
  4. Your data is backed up not on your phone but on Facebook servers, which are then shared and used with other Facebook products and third party Apps. Cambridge Analytica is fine example.
  5. Because your data is backed up on the Facebook Cloud, your deleted messages are never deleted EVER.
  6. Verification code restricts you to one phone, which means it is much easier for Facebook to connect your accounts with other data they hold about you.
  7. FAKE NEWS: I know fake news is not unique to WhatsApp as that would happen with any large communication tool and fundamentally is dependent on users to verify information. As WhatsApp is the largest communication tool in the world, why add to the spreading.

I stopped using WhatsApp over a year ago and never looked back. I only belong to groups that I actually care about and have a handful of friends who regularly chat to. I am now an active user and advocate of Signal, one of the most secure messaging systems in the world. Remember Acton? well he has personally donated over $50 million to Signal ensuring its success.

Will you stop using WhatsApp? I did and I have never looked back.

Image: “whatsapp” by mark knol is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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