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I have been a whatsapp user for the last few years. The only reason I use this platform is for the sole purpose of staying in contact with relatives in India, and my parents in Singapore. Obviously there are many platforms that provide the same function as whatsapp, but it is one of the only platforms that is widely used in India. The reason behind the wide spread use of the application in India, particularly, is because of the ease of connection and privacy: it is built around simplicity and private messaging. In regard to simplicity, users create connections through syncing their phonebook contacts with the application, and privacy is self-explanatory through the private conversations you can have with your contacts. With ease of accessibility and privacy, it was an obvious choice for many of those in India. Furthermore, it really made staying in contact with family convenient since conventional means of social media were not as widespread within the older generation of Indians, such as Facebook, and the younger generations who are jaded by the lack of privacy on Facebook.

So why am I talking about about Whatsapp? Why does it matter to anyone of us? For those paying attention to the news – social media in particular – Facebook has recently purchased whatsapp for a whopping 19 Billion dollars. This is not a meager sum to scoff at. On the surface it may seem like Facebook is playing a game of whack a mole in order to eradicate any potential competition – as insinuated by a few editorial voices. However, is it as simple as that? Mark Weinstein founder of the SGROUPLES website seems to have a different view, one that – in my opinion – is clearly more pragmatic and creates an argument which is quite alarming, with grounds for serious concern regarding privacy.

picture by Emory Allen on Flickr

picture by Emory Allen on Flickr

The piece he wrote in the Huffington Post “Whatsapp with Whatsapp” really digs into the fine print of Whatsapp’s privacy policy. His main argument is “what neither company says is what will happen to the information that WhatsApp gathers.” And what really hits home is his haunting words “here’s where you need to read the fine print and feel your skin crawl.” In particular the following excerpt:

“In the event that WhatsApp is acquired by or merged with a third-party entity, we reserve the right to transfer or assign the information we have collected from our users as part of such merger, acquisition, sale or other change of control.”

Additionally, Mark provides more evidence for us to be concerned about the acquisition:

“WhatsApp will periodically access your address book or contact list on your mobile phone to locate the mobile phone numbers of other WhatsApp users (‘in-network’ numbers), or otherwise categorize other mobile phone numbers as ‘out-network’ numbers.”

So why is this important at all? Well it seems that there is more to the acquisition than meets the eye, and warrants some real concern from the user base regarding privacy. I am a bit alarmed by the recent acquisition, but not as alarmed as my cousins in India who solely use whatsapp. The reason they use it is because of its “privacy,” and without that the platform provides no benefit to them. Anyway, these are just my thoughts on the topic, let me know what you think in the comments below.

Bibliography:

Weinstein, Mark. “WhatsApp With WhatsApp?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 26 Feb. 2014. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.

Featured Image:

WhatsApp - San Francisco -2014

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