Why I’m Leaving WhatsApp

I have finally made the decision to leave WhatsApp and use Signal as my messaging platform of choice. This is actually part of a wider move to take back my privacy (as far as practicably possible). I encourage everyone I know to make a similar switch and download the Signal app (you can find it via https://signal.org). Then please reach out to me so we can continue chatting! If you are interested, here I discuss the reasons for this move.

Apple recently made an insistence that all apps on the App Store must publish the identifying data they collect on their users. This is the data collected by WhatsApp currently …

In contrast, this is the data collected by Signal. Notice that the contact info is not even linked to you. It is needed so that they can tie messages to you.

In February 2021, WhatsApp users will be forced to accept new terms that tie their data even closer with Facebook. At the moment, there are only so many things WhatsApp can do with user data due to EU law, but those protections are no longer relevant for the UK after Brexit, and I expect WhatsApp to erode them over time. The new version of the privacy policy for European users explicitly says that data can be shared with other Facebook companies to show personalised advertising and offers, make suggestions for content, and “help” to complete purchases, among other reasons. At the end of December, Reuters reported that Facebook Inc will shift all its users in the United Kingdom into user agreements with the corporate headquarters in California, moving them out of their current relationship with Facebook’s Irish unit and out of reach of Europe’s privacy laws. You can read about this here.

As an example of the privacy enjoyed by Signal users, in 2016 the FBI served Open Whisper Systems (who “own” signal) with a federal subpoena for records on two of its users, including subscriber name, payment information, and associated IP addresses. The only information that Open Whisper Systems was able to produce was users first signed up for the service and when they most recently logged in. That was all! You can read about that here.

By contrast, when WhatsApp were issues a subpoena in 2017, they were able to provide metadata showing which numbers contacted which over WhatsApp, when, and for how long, as well as the IP addresses and phone identifiers associated with the subpoenaed accounts. You can read about that here.

There is a reason why Edward Snowdon uses Signal and not WhatsApp.

This is actually part of a wider move by me to Apple and away from Google, because Google are now interested in serving their own ends rather than the general good of the public. In 2018, Google removed their “Don’t Be Evil” Moto from their code of conduct – and at the start of 2021, Google employees, in an effort to bring back the ‘Don’t be evil’ motto, have announced they are unionising, with the Alphabet Workers Union open to all of the tech giant’s 120,000-plus employees.

I know, of course, that Apple serves its own interests too. They are a company, too. It is just that Apple’s interests happen to be aligned with the public good, with security and privacy.

Google’s and Facebook’s interests are not.

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