When I was greeted by the new terms and conditions dialogue from WhatsApp I quickly opened a browser and decided to take a look. A few paragraphs in and I was incensed and shouting angrily at my phone as if Mark Zuckerberg could hear me (he probably can as you will see below). Next, I shared the outrageous developments with my friends.
My best friend was incredulous. Who cares about such stuff anyway was the gist of his argument. He is right, like most Zimbabweans and indeed most people on earth, he never reads such stuff. He just clicks/taps the agree or OK button and quickly gets back to his chatting or whatever it is the software does. Like who has ever read Microsoft’s, Adobe’s, Apple’s, Google’s or Android’s terms and conditions. We just tap agree and be done with it.
This is just one of the many reasons why Zimbabweans or people in other countries are not going to leave WhatsApp in droves. Except for bearded weirdoes like Richard Stallman and gauche privacy-conscious crowds, nobody is going anywhere especially given the many incentives that will persuade many to stay. Cynical as ever, Facebook is banking on this fact.
I, woke as I am about privacy issues, am not even on Signal. I have been a member of Telegram for many years now though I joined out of curiosity I have come to love it. Since the WhatsApp announcement last week I have seen a trickle turn into a steady stream of people from my extensive contact book joining Telegram. They are not leaving WhatsApp, they just want a small house.
A few weirdos have also been talking about forming a Techzim community group on Signal. Before you hope onto their train you should know that these guys also talked about forming a (Google/Android) Messages group. Wonder what happened to that? Telegram the second biggest dedicated chat app has less than 20 people roaming in the Techzim group there. These guys just love technology so much they are probably in some Sasai group too. Does Sasai have groups?
Apart from the fact that Zimbabweans just don’t care about their privacy at all, there is the famous bundle hurdle. WhatsApp not only has a pretty well-established community, phone ecosystem including certified WhatsApp installers, it also gets some bundle love. You can buy cheap WhatsApp bundles from all three networks. It’s the same in a lot of countries where you sometimes even get free WhatsApp if you sign up with a mobile network operator or Internet Service Provider.
This is a pretty big incentive that drives usage. Its effects, however, may have been overstated by others. True, there are no Telegram and Signal bundles but there are Sasai bundles. These have probably helped the app gain some market share but here is proof that data bundles are not the fairy dust that will bring you guaranteed success. The app’s reception has been lacklustre and we are being kind here.
Now, to those who have been furious like me, you need to cool down too. Recently Apple opened a can of worms when it promulgated a rule requiring apps to disclose what kind of data they collect if they still want to be a part of the App Store. The results are pretty sobering. Here are the four most popular chat apps and the information they collect:
All the data WhatsApp collects
Compared to what Facebook Messenger Collects
Now that is what I call some serious spying. That’s a lot of data but consider this: Facebook used to collect even more data including constantly keeping a tally of the apps you had installed. It’s how they ended up buying WhatsApp. They saw more and more people installing it on their devices.
Now to the point I wanted to make. If you have been cheerfully using Facebook and it’s invasive messenger service to chat with your friends and family you have no business complaining about or threatening to leave WhatsApp. This change is not a big deal. Given the spyware Facebook apps on your phone, it’s unlikely Facebook will learn any new secrets from you anyway. I predict most Zimbos are more than OK with the spying from Facebook already.
There is a Shona proverb that says: If you are thinking of feasting on dog meat, then you should probably feast on the fatest and juiciest dog you can find.
Apps are already spying on us why waste our time and energy trying to care about privacy and who collects what-assume they collect everything. When we received unsolicited campaign messages from the government after they stole our private phone numbers somewhere we just shrugged too. We know the government knows our numbers already so why how can it be worse.
In case you want to be an idiot and really care about your privacy-it’s true. Telegram and Signal are indeed ideal for you. They collect very little information about you as revealed by Apple.
The little information that Telegram collects
Signal collects nothing
There is not going to be any exodus from WhatsApp in Zimbabwe. WhatsApp is everything. It’s the internet. It’s where we do our business. Where we share laughs and exchange ideas. It is where it begins and ends. There is no Telegram for the masses. We haven’t even heard of Signal for the most part.
So cool your jets Telegram and Signal. Enough with the flirting. We are married to WhatsApp.