Facebook-owned WhatsApp had a pretty horrid first month this year. Their attempt to make people agree to their new terms and conditions or stop using WhatsApp was not well received, to say the least. WhatsApp figures that people were not happy with the somewhat rude language they used in their earlier notice, so they are trying again.
They are probably right. The wording of their original notice couldn’t have been more arrogant. They basically said, agree to our new spying terms or stop using our App by February, yours truly, the smug crew at Facebook. I was pretty nettled by the language alone and that annoyance, it turns out, was shared by a lot of people. Now WhatsApp wants to use a softer approach to coax people into giving it the permission to spy on them.
So has WhatsApp made any changes to the changes they wanted to make back in January? No, they are just praying that their new phrasing which uses a lot more words and confusing legalese is going to be enough to fool people into just tapping that Agree button.
In January there were also a lot of conspiracy theories that hurt WhatsApp’s attempt to make people agree to their new terms. In a twist of irony, a lot of these conspiracy theories were spread using WhatsApp’s messaging service. The most damaging claim alleged that WhatsApp would now be able to read and view people’s private chat messages. That had people up in arms.
People want to know that WhatsApp and Facebook cannot read or listen to personal conversations as they’re end-to-end encrypted. After that, people want to know that WhatsApp does not keep logs of who everyone is messaging and that we do not share contact lists with Facebook. This is our global approach to protecting people’s most private information and that’s not changingPart of WhatsApp’s PR message as it tries to win people over
The truth is that people are just sick of Facebook’s monetisation model where they are the product. Even if WhatsApp doesn’t read your messages they still end up knowing very intimate parts of you and scandals like the past US election and Cambridge Analytica have shown us there is nothing benevolent about Mark Zuckerberg’s data vacuuming machine. The potential damage they can do with that information is concerning.
Personally, I am just tired of the way apps collect our data especially as these firms continue to grow. A familiar refrain I often hear from many Zimbabweans is that they do not care what data Facebook collects as it does not impact their tumultuous Zimbabwean lives. What if Facebook decides to go full NSO Group and starts selling your data to the Zimbabwean government? What then? Will you be so cavalier? Do you think they won’t? Surely you are not that naive.
Bring back the paying option
Allow me again to say I am nauseated by Facebook’s current monetising model. I only use Facebook when I have to but WhatsApp is just an indispensable platform and I have no choice but to stay. I have tried alternatives and do use Telegram regularly but for the most part, it’s quiet out there. Have you ever been on Signal or Ayoba? It’s like being on Mars.
WhatsApp had their own monetisation model which was pretty good for some of us. They had a subscription model where they just charged a dollar per year. That was it. Then Facebook happened and the app became “free”. And now it sits on your phone collecting all sorts of data about you taking it back to its overlords somewhere in America.
One should always be wary of free things. As the famous statement goes, if you are not paying for the product then you are the product. Your data or more accurately bits of you that make you, you are being auctioned off to the highest bidder. You need to be afraid of that highest bidder if you are not at least afraid of Facebook by now.
Obviously, WhatsApp will probably want to charge more than nighty-nine US cents per year. They will have to come up with a price befitting of the service now. Two dollars fifty per month perhaps? I just made up that number but consider this, if every user paid that amount it would translate to annual revenue of US$45 billion and I bet the current spyware model will not bring in nearly as much.
Clearly, a lot of people hate the data for the service model but they have no choice. If you fail to agree to WhatsApp’s new terms by 15 May you will no longer be able to send messages and lose other functionality. That’s not much of a choice. Why not bring back that alternative where people who can pay are allowed to and be exempted.
Facebook probably won’t do it but it’s high time regulators step in and bring this marauding bear to heel. Otherwise when will it stop?