002 - Why should you consider not using WhatsApp?

No. More. WhatsApp. Getting back a tiny, tiny, tiny bit of privacy. At what cost?

TLDR; Our privacy. I'm leaving WhatsApp and you might want consider it too. There are great alternatives such as Signal (best) or Telegram (slightly more features). Both have apps for Android/iPhone and also desktop/web-browser options for the desktop. And once switched, it's really not that different (apart from the privacy!)

I wrote this article for friends and family to explain why I'm closing my WhatsApp account and why they probably should too.

Why shouldn't we use WhatsApp? Everybody uses it. It's convenient, free, and let's us chat with our family and friends. But it's also owned by Facebook and a recent update to their privacy policy shows that the company has been playing fast and loose with our data, and thus privacy, for several years now. Ands its only going to keep going in the wrong direction.

Facebook is a company. A very large company and we don't pay anything to use it. Facebook looks like a social-media company, enabling users to post their pictures and stories, and connect up with friends and families in groups to do things together. However, Facebook is really a social-graph aggregation company. It compiles every bit of data it can on people; where they are, who they know, what they look like, what they like to eat, where they go, what their interests are, where they work, their political affiliation, and so-on. Name a data point about a person and Facebook will either have, or be trying to acquire, that data point.

Facebook then sells that data about us to just about anybody that will pay for it. The least malign are advertisers who just want us to buy their product. The most malign are those that want to change our views to achieve their, often political, ends.

We are not the customers of Facebook. We are the product that they sell to their customers. This is why Facebook is free. It's also why WhatsApp is free.

Why did Facebook pay $16B for WhatsApp? That worked out to $40 per user at the time. They certainly didn't do it for our convenience. They did it to acquire more data about us, who we communicate with, and our list of contacts. So that the data that Facebook sells is more valuable. The data about our lives.

When we give WhatsApp permission to access our contacts on our phones, we give Facebook the social graph of everybody we know. That also includes people who have never used WhatsApp. I'm pretty sure they are not too thrilled about it, to be honest! So my main reason for not using it is simple: I don't want to be profiled by Facebook and have this data given to advertisers, and other groups. Do you? Facebook certainly seems to be (one of) the big-brother(s) that we were warned about.

And for a very recent "jump scare" on how Facebook affects society, consider that Facebook was most likely used to arrange the recent assault on the Capitol building in Washington.

Obviously, it's not easy removing WhatsApp from my life. I use it to keep in contact with friends and family and not all will migrate to one of the alternatives. But on balance, pushing back against WhatsApp en masse does actually have an effect. They very recently announced that they would be delaying the new privacy policy by 3 months due to the number of people fleeing the platform. But what's really needed is the breakup of Facebook to protect our privacy.

So perhaps you have decided to leave WhatsApp? What are the alternatives. There are two services that care much more about privacy than WhatsApp. Signal and Telegram. This is a pretty good comparison of the two, and I feel that Telegram is probably the closest to WhatsApp in terms of features, but Signal is more secure and private. Both use fully encrypted messages that the service provider can't read. Signal is even more paranoid. I've got both installed and some people prefer one over the other. If in doubt, try Telegram first. You (probably) won't be disappointed!

I'm publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting https://100daystooffload.com

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