WhatsApp Information Collection Policy
WhatsApp collects the following two types of information from the users.
A) Automatically Collected Information
The automatically collected information includes the following type of data.
1) Cookies Information
2) Log Information
This is one of the sensitive information that WhatsApp automatically collects from its users. WhatsApp collects information about all the activities a user performs by utilizing the WhatsApp service. This includes log files, performance reports, people’s interaction with other WhatsApp users; messages, calls, status, groups, and profile information.
3) Device and Connection Information
When we install WhatsApp on our mobile, it collect almost all the information related to device hardware and connection settings. This includes device model, OS information, IP address, ISP record, browser information, phone numbers, languages, mobile networks, and device operations.
4) Location Information
WhatsApp employs two techniques to collect user information. It gathers the precise information location when the user opts for location-based services. This action is performed with the consent of the users. The other technique used by WhatsApp relies on the IP address and phone codes to get a general idea of the user location.
B) Information Provided by the User
Besides aforementioned data, WhatsApp also collects the information provided by the individuals using the WhatsApp services.
1) Account Information
This is the general information provided by the user during the WhatsApp installation process. A user is required to provide a valid phone number to be linked with the WhatsApp account. Profile name and picture are the additional information that can be shared with WhatsApp while signing up for the account. A user can change the provided information at any later stage. However, WhatsApp does require phone number validation to modify the user record.
2) User Messages
WhatsApp provides a convenient way of sharing messages in the form of text and media files. According to the current WhatsApp policy, these messages possess the end-to-end encryption. All user messages are temporarily stored on the WhatsApp server during the course of messages exchanged by the users. WhatsApp claims that it stores the undelivered messages for 30 days in encrypted form.
3) Transactions and Payments Record
WhatsApp has recently introduced the in-app shopping feature to enter the ecommerce arena. If a user opts for WhatsApp payments or financial services, the application processes the information associated with the payment account and transaction made by the users. This means that when a person uses WhatsApp services for payments, WhatsApp collects the certain financial and personal data, such as payment method, transaction amount, and shipping details.
The WhatsApp new policy update took the internet by storm. The company faced a strong backlash from the community. The controversial announcement dropped the WhatsApp users in millions as people started looking for alternate apps with similar features and more security. In response to the strong reaction by the people, the WhatsApp has delayed the rolling of new policy for three months.
The Rise of Signal Application
In the wake of ongoing WhatsApp backlash, People started experimenting with the Signal services. The app witnessed 7+ million downloads in last few days amid WhatsApp controversy. Following is a brief analysis of Signal features that make the app a strong competitor of the dominant WhatsApp.
1) Meta Encryption
The Signal encryption technique is considered better than the WhatsApp encryption. The Signal not only provides the end-to-end encryption for the messages and calls, it also encrypts the metadata to make the process a sealed communication. With that feature in place, nobody is able to identify the message origin, not even the service provider.
2) Message Relays
Privacy is one of the strongest features of Signal application. It allows users to relay the voice messages through its servers to hide the IP and identity of the sender. The feature is somewhat similar to the VPN technology.
3) Open-source Technology
Signal is an open-source messaging application. The open-source license allows the security researchers to test and validate the security claimed by the application.
4) Self Notes
Signal has a dedicated self note (Note to Self) option for persona record keeping. WhatsApp lacks this feature as it requires a group to achieve the similar capability.
The existing information or data collection policy of WhatsApp seems acceptable as long as it provides the end-to-end encryption, does not store any sensitive information on its servers, and does not share any sensitive information with the partner firms. The merger of WhatsApp with Facebook and the introduction of ecommerce features have made the application dependent on its parent company. Although the WhatsApp administration has clarified that it will exchange business-related data with Facebook companies without compromising the users’ privacy, the decision has really moved the people to think about alternate applications with similar messaging features and more security.