WhatsApp has long prided itself on end-to-end encryption and preserving the privacy of the messages we send with our contacts. What is not talked about so much is the metadata that it does access : this “data about your data” reveals useful information for a Facebook that now has an open war with Apple.
The Cupertino company has begun to launch its privacy labels in the App Store, and with them shows and “tells” about the data collected by the applications. In the case of WhatsApp, it is clear how this tool collects contacts from our mobile phone, commercial data when we use Facebook services or the IP that can be used to geolocate us with some precision.
Our WhatsApp messages are encrypted, but everything else is not
In WhatsApp they seem to have it clear: “the security and privacy of our users are part of our DNA”, they say when talking about their end-to-end encryption system. The content of our messages certainly seems to be safe from prying eyes, but the problem goes beyond that content.
As Ian Thornton-Trump, CISO of cybersecurity firm Cyjax explained in Forbes , ” metadata – the data about your data – is almost as powerful as the content of the messages.”
That metadata reveals who you know, who you message with, when, and how often. Or those who know your contacts and those who send messages. It is these metadats that feed Facebook’s information mining machine, and things get worse if we take into account that Facebook has begun to intertwine WhatsApp with Instagram and with the social network itself in order to form a fairly juicy profile of each user who touch any of those services.
Those moves are compounded by the attitude of Apple, which has made several moves aimed at protecting that privacy. The last of them has been the implementation of these ‘privacy labels’ that allow users to be informed of the data that is collected when we install and use applications through the App Store.
With these tags, users who install WhatsApp will see the information it collects with encryption. “Users”, they say in Apple ” will find out about some of the types of data that an application can collect, and if that data is linked to them or can be used to monitor them.”
Facebook has already protested this measure by running full-page ads in some of the largest newspapers in the United States.
If you take a walk through the App Store and search for WhatsApp Messenger, you will see a lot of data collected in the new “Privacy of the app” section, something that of course reveals how beyond the content there is relevant information that Facebook can leverage for your advertising business.
WhatsApp issued a statement on this new Apple measure, and in its message explained how its service collects data “in order to operate a reliable global service.” Although they collect data such as the contacts we send messages to, “we do not share contact lists with anyone to use, not even Facebook.”
Apple’s proposal certainly seems like a good way for users to be more informed about what happens behind the scenes when they use applications like these, but on Facebook and WhatsApp this is more of a direct attack against some services that need to collect that information to monetize user activity. As he said ,”if you don’t pay for the product, you are the product.” Or not?