A WhatsApp Privacy Update For Parents, Caregivers, and Educators

May 7, 2024

This is an update to a posting we did on WhatsApp in May 2023

WhatsApp, owned by Meta (formerly Facebook), is the world’s #1 free messaging app globally (approximately 2 billion monthly active subscribers) where a user can use it to text message, make a phone call, group chat, and send videos/pictures. It should also be noted that conversations can be easily deleted, and like snapchat, a user can also choose to turn disappearing messages on for all chats. It should be noted, that WhatsApp has now lowered the previous age restriction of 16+ down to the age of 13yrs. We here at the White Hatter believe that given some of the concerns mentioned in both our previous article and this one, the age restriction should continue to be 16+.

WhatsApp prides itself on their stringent privacy measures, aimed at shielding personal communication from potential external threats seeking to intercept messages or harvest personal data and images that are sent and received. Through the implementation of end-to-end encryption, messages are encrypted on a users’ device until they reach their intended recipient. However, it’s crucial to recognize that encryption and the ephemeral nature of the app represents only one aspect of privacy protection.

End-to-end encryption ensures message confidentiality, safeguarding both text and private photos from unauthorized access, including from WhatsApp itself. Yet, alongside message content, the transmission of messages generates additional data known as metadata. While some metadata is indispensable for message delivery and traffic analysis, there are still privacy concerns that should be understood.

Following its acquisition by Meta in 2016, WhatsApp now shares message metadata with Meta. While Meta reportedly refrains from accessing message content, it does leverage WhatsApp activity, including metadata, for targeted advertising, prompting scrutiny of Meta’s data handling practices regarding WhatsApp metadata. Despite end-to-end encryption, WhatsApp and Meta retain information concerning message transmission, sparking privacy apprehensions regarding Meta’s visibility into user data and how they are monetizing it. If you notice targeted advertisements on Facebook or Instagram based on your WhatsApp activity, this integration may be the reason why.

Users have limited control over their WhatsApp data, particularly concerning the sharing of metadata with Meta and other third parties. The platform’s privacy settings may lack the necessary granularity for users to tailor their privacy preferences according to individual needs. For those valuing privacy and metadata control, alternative messaging applications like the “Signal” app, suitable for older teens and adults, or the “Kinzoo” messaging app, designed for pre-teens and younger teens, may prove more suitable.

Digital Food For Thought, 

The White Hatter

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