Whatsapp: This threatens if you do not agree to the terms of use – digital


The year started with a PR disaster for Whatsapp. At the beginning of January, the messenger informed its users about new terms of use and caused panic with a small pop-up. Millions of people registered with competitors Signal, Threema and Telegram. The central fear does not apply at all: Whatsapp will no longer share more data with the parent company Facebook than before – it was just communicated so poorly that there was room for misinformation.

Whatsapp is now starting a second attempt and is trying to do better: more transparency, better explanations, longer time to think about it for users. The new ultimatum runs until May 15th, originally the deadline was supposed to end on February 8th. With a blog entry, a new help page and answers to frequently asked questions, Whatsapp is trying to calm down worried users. The company also makes it clear what happens if you still don’t agree to the new terms – and these plans are tough.

Whatsapp will not immediately delete the user account of a refusal, but it will severely limit its functions. “You will receive calls and notifications for a short time, but you can neither read nor send messages in the app,” it says. Whatsapp stirs up the so-called fear of missing out, the fear of missing out on something: look who’s writing you everything. It would be a shame if you no longer find out what your girlfriend is trying to tell you. Don’t you want to change your mind after all?

The new explanations remain confused

The “short time” of the psychological pressure will probably last a few weeks, reports the US portal Techcrunch. Then the notifications stop and the account is shut down. You can still agree to the new terms of use during this time, the cooling off period is 120 days. After that, the account will be deleted according to Whatsapp’s policy for inactive accounts. However, the word “normally” leaves the door open to a further extension of the deadline.

With this trick Whatsapp should get many people to accept the changes after all. But whether they really know what exactly they are nodding off is questionable. Because the new explanations also remain confused. The blog entry is full of PR phrases. There is “continuing to work hard to clear up all misunderstandings” and “even more efforts are made to ensure clarity” so that people can “obtain information at their own pace”.

In the penultimate paragraph, Whatsapp reveals the pressure it has put itself under through its misleading communication. The biggest messenger in the world makes fun of its smaller competitors. It was noticed “how some of our competitors falsely claimed that they could not see the messages from users”. This probably means Telegram, the app does not offer any standard end-to-end encryption. “We believe that people want apps that are both reliable and secure” – a swipe at Signal whose servers briefly failed to withstand the huge onslaught in January.

Signal and Threema are considered alternatives

The trigger for all the excitement, however, does not change. Whatsapp adheres to the new terms of use. That is understandable, because the outrage was exaggerated then as now. Because hardly anything changes for people in the EU. In the future, companies should be able to communicate more easily with users, which is why the terms of use are being adapted. In addition, Whatsapp has given the data protection declaration a new layout and revised some passages to make it clearer how it manages information.

The two biggest fears are unfounded. On the one hand, messages remain end-to-end encrypted, Whatsapp can never see the content. On the other hand, metadata is shared with the parent company Facebook so that they can find out who opens the app and when and with whom. However, this has been happening for years. Within the EU, Whatsapp still does not use this information to personalize advertising on Facebook or Instagram.

However, Whatsapp manages to cause confusion on this point too. Because the formulation is restricted by a “currently”. And the privacy policy states that Whatsapp has a legitimate interest in processing personal data in order to promote products from Facebook companies and to send direct mail. Only one thing is clear afterwards: if you want to chat securely and in a privacy-friendly manner, you don’t need to worry about what Facebook does with the metadata with Signal and Threema.

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