It is also reported that if you fail to agree to the new Terms of Service by February 8th, you run the risk of losing access to your WhatsApp account next month.
WhatsApp announced to users on Wednesday (Jan. 6) that they would have to consent to Facebook and its subsidiaries collecting WhatsApp data such as user phone numbers, contact phone numbers, locations, and more.
The update takes the form of an in-app notification that users can ignore until the date arrives.
This begs the question: why is WhatsApp taking this step and how is it benefiting its parent company?
Why is WhatsApp taking this step?
WhatsApp was founded in 2009 by two former Yahoo! Employees who left for work related to selling ads and were determined to create an app without ads.
This was also the reason why WhatsApp started out as a paid app. It cost users $ 1 per year, or it was free for the first year and then it would cost $ 1 per year each subsequent year.
It was then bought by Facebook for $ 19 billion in 2014 and became Facebook's largest property after its courier service and Instagram.
According to statistics, WhatsApp has 2.5 billion users worldwide, making it the most popular messaging platform in the world.
In 2016 WhatsApp announced that the service would be free for all users.
In the same year, users were given the one-time opportunity to deactivate the transfer of app data to Facebook.
Screengrab from WhatsApp
The messages that are sent through the app are also encrypted throughout so that WhatsApp or Facebook can read the messages.
As a result, how Facebook makes money on WhatsApp has long been a question.
A WhatsApp representative told Ars Technica that companies are allowed to save WhatsApp chats via the Facebook infrastructure.
It is speculated that with the move, Facebook will now use WhatsApp user data to improve Facebook products and serve more relevant ads.
The new policy also means that Facebook reserves the right to share the data collected in its family from online platforms.
In addition, there will be cases when Facebook decides to share this data with a third party, causing further turmoil for privacy groups.
The move is in response to Apple's new privacy labels for iOS 14, which highlight the different ways certain free apps collect information about their users.
This was especially illuminating for the Facebook family of apps, which happen to have the largest list of all.
Biz Leaders urge users to boycott WhatsApp and switch to Signal, Telegram instead
The move prompted users to delete their WhatsApp accounts and switch to smaller encrypted messaging apps like Signal and Telegram.
UK-based journalist and editor for TechCrunch, Mike Butcher, tweeted, "Signal and Telegram are now better alternatives if you are concerned about your privacy."
He shared screenshots of the data WhatsApp collects versus the data that Signal and Telegram collect.
Photo credit: Mike Butcher
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, was one of those who recommended users switch services and tweet, "Use Signal".
3 best alternatives from WhatsApp
Telegram is probably the best alternative to WhatsApp. According to their data protection regulations, they "do not use your data to serve you advertisements".
All data is stored in a highly encrypted manner and the encryption keys are each stored in several other data centers in different jurisdictions. This prevents local engineers or physical intruders from accessing user data.
You can even set a timer to destroy messages in secret chats after reading the message yourself. After the timer expires, both devices participating in a secret chat are instructed to delete the message (photo, video, etc.).
The next best alternative is Signal. The app is free with no ads and does not collect or sell user data. It also supports encrypted messages.
Photo credit: Callball / AppsVerse Photon Browser / Mobile World Live
Signal's biggest downside is that it's nowhere near as popular as mainstream apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
It's popular with journalists, activists, politicians, and others who deal with sensitive information, but it hasn't seen the same wide acceptance as its bigger rivals.
The Japanese mobile messaging app LINE also states that it does not sell user data. It also supports the encryption of messages and functions of the service known as "letter sealing".
Hence, you can rest assured that your data is well protected with these alternative messaging platforms.
Selected image source: WSPA.com