Should we be worried about the new rules imposed by WhatsApp?



► What are the changes made by WhatsApp?

The two billion WhatsApp messaging users have been offered new general conditions of use (T & Cs) since last week. Those who refuse to submit to it will simply not be able to access it as of February 8. Behind this reworking of the regulations, the parent company Facebook is seeking to monetize its messaging, bought in 2014 for $ 22 billion, by expanding the range of personal data collected and available to advertisers.

→ EXPLANATION. WhatsApp changes its rules, Signal rubs its hands

By accepting the modifications, the user gives his consent to Facebook and to the applications of Mark Zuckerberg’s group – Messenger, Instagram – to retrieve and use, in particular, his phone number, his nickname, his information relating to the use of WhatsApp and other data of “transactions” carried out on the messaging system. WhatsApp does not give a precise list of this data, but it can concern all the information other than the content of conversations: number of connections, time spent on the application, type of conversation (in a group or not), etc. These are all valuable elements for companies wishing to target potential customers.

However, the European Union and the United Kingdom should be distinguished from the rest of the world. Among the former, where the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies, only professional users of WhatsApp Business services will be forced to this massive aspiration of personal information. “For a particular user, it will not change anything in terms of use of the tool, it is painless”, confirms Me Merav Griguer, lawyer specializing in digital law at Bird & Bird. “WhatsApp does not share the data of its users in Europe with Facebook for the purpose of Facebook using it to improve its products or its advertising”, assured a spokesperson for the messaging service in the face of criticism.

► Can Facebook legally impose new rules of use?

From February 8, WhatsApp will therefore condition its access to submission to the new rules on data sharing. “This type of blackmail leads to forced consent, which is not given freely but under pressure to suffer prejudice, in this case losing the history of one’s contacts and conversations., analysis Arthur Messaud, lawyer for the Internet users defense association La Quadrature du net. If the GDPR was applied, users would have had the choice to decline the new contract offered by WhatsApp and continue to use the application under the old conditions. “

Based on the GDPR requirement for consent “Free” and ” enlightened “ of the person concerned by the use of their data, Arthur Messaud recalls the complaints filed by his association in May 2018 against Facebook, investigated by the Irish data protection authority, the competence falling, under the GDPR, to the CNIL of the country where the company has the center of its activities.

“There is a whole fantasy around the fact that consent is the exclusive condition for the legality of the use of data”, but the use of personal information and its monetization “Are not subject to the sole consent of individuals”, argues on the contrary Me Merav Griguer: “The legitimate interest of a business and in particular that of advertising” can constitute a “Legal basis” to this use of private data.

► The Signal app better protected than WhatsApp?

Scared by the new conditions of use of WhatsApp, many users have fallen back on Signal, an instant messaging system guaranteeing the encryption and confidentiality of exchanges, popular with political activists and other individuals anxious to converse freely. The Sensor Tower company, which specializes in the economic analysis of mobile applications, recorded nearly 7.5 million downloads worldwide between January 6 and 10, or 43 times more than the previous week. The application even experienced some technical problems in front of the flood of new users.

→ THE FACTS. Conservative social network Parler banned by Google, Apple and Amazon

“Signal is easy to use and does not have an advertising business model, from there, we are no longer shorn like sheep, formula Arthur Messaud. But you have to be aware that an application is never perfectly secure. If we really want to be sure, we might as well go back to paper exchanges! “

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